The con job that is Shu-Ha-Ri

On another blog I posted the following:

That’s true. Ha is to question the norm. After you have gone through the training and expense of the Shu stage.

When you get to Ri they don’t make any money off of anyone, whether it’s’ aikido or scrum.

So, the thing is, can one bypass the “Shu” stage of endeavours that are non worthwhile, without spending any time or money?

To me, the answer is yes.

To Agile, Inc, the answer is heck no, right?

I’m not buying it — the notion that one cannot question an endeavor until one has spent shu amount of time and money on it. People could come up with 20 methodologies and force everyone through the shu stage before they are even allowed to question it.

Not only is the patrician, and outdated, it’s beyond the pale when it comes to telling the customer they are too ignorant to question anything until they have bought shu cars etc.

As you can see I’m not a big fan of the Shu-Ha-Ri concept. Not only is it fortune cookie level eastern thinking, it can fundamentally translated as: “Grandfather knows best. Grandfather is Ri. After you have kids and they are in college, you can be considered to be in the Ha stage, and after you are a grandparent you can be Ri. In the meantime, don’t question anything”.

Gussying it up in new age clothes doesn’t change it.

But it is a little more sinister than that — since you can’t question anything until you reach Ha stage, and you have to expend money  and time to go through the Shu stage, it’s a convenient cover story to sell you product, even product you question and don’t believe in, unquestioningly.

I’m sorry, noone should be forced to accept anything based on the fact that they are a “beginner” in a methodology someone just created.

They could be quite advanced in general and can see through things.

Even Einstein was quite fond of “gedanken” (thought) experiments versus real world experiments.

Sure, it’s nice to have the real world experience, in anything and everything, but it’s nice to be able to think through things and avoid suboptimal paths.

Shu-Ha-Ri is a concept, that, in the software world, needs to be lain to rest for good.

If people want to apprentice themselves to some master on their own time, that’s fine, or they can apprentice themselves to cobbler or luthier.

As a business technique, it’s sole purpose is to suppress dissent and gather revenues, pushing as many of the sheep through the shu stage as their bank accounts can stand.

If you can’t compare two different concepts without trying them both, then what they are trying to do is get you to spend the money to try both. That’s all there is to it.


About postagilist

Architect, Manager, Developer, Musician, Post-Agile thought leader
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4 Responses to The con job that is Shu-Ha-Ri

  1. umlcowboy says:

    I admire your energy to fight these people!

  2. postagilist says:

    I guess it’s either fight or let an industry I love be overrun by soothsayers

  3. So I guess the Dreyfus model ( is all new age-y fortune cookie level eastern thinking too, eh? It must be, since Shu-Ha-Ri is essentially a simplified version of the same concept…

    • postagilist says:

      Yes I would say they are similar.

      The difference is how they are applied — Dreyfus was invented for the Air force, where they truly did have complete novices at the start of the process.

      Shu-Ha-Ri is targeted at people who already have skill and experience, but they are stripped back to complete novice level simply because they are learning some kernel of something that is new.

      That would be akin to, when moving from prop planes to turbine planes, that the pilot would go all the way back to shu stage, which certainly doesn’t happen with civilian pilots and I doubt that it happens with military pilots either.

      Also, doing things completely by the book is, and always has been, part of military doctrine, and is a huge part of civilian aviation as well.

      I don’t think software projects should be run using either military or martial arts doctrine of total submission to superiors.

      So yes, they are quite similar in that regard.

      In terms of the newagey fortune cookie aspect, specifically, as described above, both concepts are martial in nature.

      However in the real Air Force, Army, etc, enlistees voluntarily agree to a military discipline (eg, General Knows Best)…and it’s in their contract.

      In Agile Land, they are sold this as some sort of Bruce Lee/Jackie Chan/Chuck Norris claptrap.

      There is no reason to make a bunch of (otherwise civilian) software engineers buy into some Clergy of Scrum Masters and Shu-Ha-Ri nonsense, just because they loved martial arts flicks as kids.

      And of course this is all in service of the folks who are profiteering on it.

      So there you have it, I think…


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