By Applaudo Studios





From student to master: the ultimate learning path.

Today we’re going to review a Japanese martial art concept called Shu-Ha-Ri (yes, you read that well), this is a martial art concept! But don’t worry, you don’t have to fight anyone to understand it (phew).

Actually, the Shu-Ha-Ri has been abstracted and adapted to the cycle of learning in general, these are three Japanese words that are roughly translated to Shu (To keep), Ha (To fall), Ri (To break away) and they represent the stages, from learning to mastery. Let’s observe each one, shall we?


Is the first step of the learning process, and it denotes that the student shall learn the teachings of the master, by heart, following, exactly, every rule, every consideration each step of the way, without much focus on the underlying reasons why things are done a certain way or the theory behind it.


In the second step of the learning process, having the basics already secured and applying them, the student begins branching out, learning about the underlying theory and also learning from other masters and integrating this new learning into the practice.


This is the third and final step of the learning process, here, the student is no longer learning from anyone, but him/herself, learning from the practice, creating new approaches, and applying the learnings to their particular circumstances.

The way this works is that the basics of the skill are learned by the person, and he/she uses them, practices them, lives them day by day, until the skill comes naturally, at which point he/she starts branching out, learning from other approaches and other “masters” (who could be peers, supervisors, prominent people in the field, etc…), and incorporating this approaches to the application of the skill, until it becomes second nature, at which point they are no longer learning, they are now masters themselves, who are capable of improving and refining the process to adapt to their individual circumstances and are now also able to start teaching it… pretty cool right?

Now, you might be wondering, that’s good and all, but how do I apply this to Agile? Or how is this going to bring value to me as a Scrum Master? Well, in order to answer that question, let’s review a practical example step by step.

Study Case

There is a Scrum team, whose daily scrums are taking over 30+ mins consistently, and it’s creating an aversion among the scrum team members who feel that this is a waste of time.

Step 1: Shu

We’ll go back to basics, let’s mechanize the day on a proven framework that will help streamline the process, and the team agrees to stick to the 3 question approach (What did you do yesterday? What do you plan to do today? Do you have any blockers?) While not set in stone, this initial process ensures that the team creates an underlying understanding of the dailies.

Step 2: Ha

After some time, the team has seen an improvement in the process, the dailys are now within the timebox or at least much closer and everyone takes their turn answering the question, now, the team starts exploring new approaches such as adding one more question (What help do I need today?) to make the feature dependencies more effective and efficient.

Step 3: Ri

At this point, the team doesn’t stick to the questions anymore, everyone has learned how to express their points in a clear, meaningful, and concise way, without mechanization, adapting to changes, and ensuring that the event stays within the timebox and is valuable for everyone.

And with this, we close the cycle. Actually, we might be using Shu-Ha-Ri daily, and we don’t even know it, because it’s a natural process, however, being aware of it will definitely help us go through the stages in a more mindful way and reach expertise even faster!

Within Applaudo, we purposefully use Shu-Ha-Ri to prepare our new hires within the agile team, by pairing them with mentors that help them go through the Shu and Ha steps, and once they are ready, they can start applying the Ri step on their own, and this has proved to be a very successful approach.

About the author

Edgar Renderos

Edgar is an Agile coach with 2+ years of agile experience and 5+ years of team management experience, having worked with teams with different backgrounds and scopes in different industries has provided him with the insight that developing a team requires not only the right approach and technical skills but also the human side to make the people comfortable and strive to do their best every time.

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