Our Shu-Ha-Ri technique

At Teal Unicorn, we have had a lot of success with a workshop to produce a Shu-Ha-Ri profile of a team, which unlocks higher performance, better results, and happier people.  

We use the definition of Shu-Ha-Ri used by the Agile software community, which is a modification of the original Shu-Ha-Ri of martial arts.

    • Shu: The student follows the rules of a given method precisely, without addition or alteration. Follow tradition. Apply known solutions.
      Ha: The student learns theory and principles of the technique. Become free from tradition. Think for yourself, apply theories to create new solutions.
      Ri: The student creates their own approaches and adapts technique to circumstance. Transcend tradition. Create new theories.

By doing this workshop we: 

  • Understand what a team actually does
  • Map the team capability
  • Identify the skills needed for the team
  • Identify training and development needs
  • Evaluate each person’s Shu-Ha-Ri profile. 
  • Personalise the training for each person (reducing training costs and effective training for each individual)
  • Identify requirements for new team members
  • Provide a foundation for reward systems
  • Move thinking towards skills not roles
  • Create fluidity of work. Clarify who can pull which work (e.g. from Kanban).
  • Optimise the team’s work distribution reading to optimal performance. .Working by skill is very effective and there is no waste or lack of skills needed for a team to complete the task in the best way.

It really is a dynamite little activity.

It works like this:

  1. Agree what the team’s purpose is, what it actually does.
  2. Agree what skills are necessary – across the team mix – to achieve that.
  3. Creates a matrix of these skills vs the capability levels of Shu, Ha, and Ri.
  4. Agree what observable capabilities define each cell in the matrix.
  5. Each person self-assesses their ShuHaRi level for each of the skills. A simple view of Shu-Ha-Ri for this purpose is
    1. Shu: apprentice, not proficient 
    2. Ha: skilled, do well 
    3. Ri: master, innovator, can teach others. 
  6. Others calibrate people’s self-assessment in a “360” review of the profiles.
  7. The overall skill map is clearly displayed, like taking an X-ray of the team.
  8. Do a “Team Tetris”: map of how team members fit together to cover the necessary skills at the necessary levels.
  9. Group discussion of the resulting picture.

After the workshop:

  • Job descriptions are dropped. Traditional organisations often look for candidates when recruiting to fill in the vacant positions. Job descriptions often contain a lot of detailed descriptions as well. There are job descriptions up to several pages long with hundreds of headings. In fact, the more detailed the job description, the harder it is to do the job effectively. We helped a number of orgs to get rid of job descriptions and KPIs; and move to a model that describes the skills, attitudes, and culture required of an employee. Salary is paid according to capacity level, regularly reviewing capacity to pay a reasonable salary + bonus.
  • The work efficiency and the overall contribution of each individual is transparent.
  • Everyone is under team pressure (instead of pressure from management)
  • Everyone is accountable (to the team) for the results and quality of the work.
  • Together they produce better results faster, resulting in higher income and happier people.

After 2 months of experience, here are the results via survey in a 500-person company

  • The professional skills of employees are improved every day and many other cross-skills are learned continuously.
  • Get the help they need, get more support.
  • Be empowered, have autonomy in work, have greater responsibility for their products.
  • More productivity and creative
  • Managers have more free time for higher value work, more time to focus on creativity, mentoring and improving systems.