The Sauce Journey – Shu Ha Ri

August 25th, 2016 by Joe Alfaro

If you’re attempting to implement an Agile/Scrum development process where none has existed before, you will surely an encounter a moment of frustration on the part of your developers. “Why do we have to do these standups?” “I don’t understand why we need to assign story points, can’t we just get to the projects?” “Where is my technical specification?” Like Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid, your developers may wonder why you have them doing the engineering equivalent of “wax on, wax off,” when what they really want to do is get into the fight. What Ralph Macchio eventually understands is that the performance of rote, rigid external exercises is a first step on the road to internal mastery, a process well known in the world of martial arts as Shu Ha Ri.

In its broader definitions, Shu Ha Ri describes a process of learning: in the Shu stage, the learner follows directions literally and adheres rigidly to whatever rules the teacher has set. In the Ha stage, the learner begins to see how the rules and directions can be adapted for specific situations, and exercises some judgement in how they should be applied. In the Ri stage, the learner has developed her own techniques, and now innovates freely as the situation demands. (more…)

The Sauce Journey – “Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing”

July 21st, 2016 by Joe Alfaro

A few years ago, while working elsewhere, I came upon a scene of two engineers literally screaming at each other over the top of their cubicle walls about some aspect of a project. “Oh good,” I thought, “they’ve reached the storming stage, things can only get better from here.”

As I talked about in my previous post, forming Scrum teams leads to emergent behavior on the part of individuals as they adjust to the new regime. The same is true of small teams; once formed, the way in which individuals interact with each other tends to undergo a sequence of changes as well. The behavioral scientist Bruce Tuckman labeled these stages as Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing. As unpleasant as the transitions from stage to stage might be, all teams must progress through them in order to reach the point where they are truly self-managing.

In the forming stage, teams cohere in relation to external influences, like goals and tasks, but tend to remain focused on themselves as individuals. This is reinforced in the way that we typically constitute technical teams, where each person is recruited for their individual technical strengths. Forming is typically a stage that is driven by intellectual and analytical considerations, since it focuses on defining the project, identifying tasks, and assigning team members who can fulfill them. (more…)