Using SFIA or eCF for IT teams doing Shu-Ha-Ri

We use Shu-Ha-Ri a lot. At one of our clients, the IT folk are finding it hard work to come up with a good set of IT skills, so I referred them to the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) to populate their Shu-Ha-Ri model. Clients will be able to use this to get where you want. The risk is that it is too complicated.  If so, you should look at the European Competence Framework (e-CF) instead.


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 practitioner learns theory and principles of the technique. Become free from tradition. Think for themselves, apply theories to create new solutions.
  • Ri: The master creates their own approaches and adapts technique to circumstance. Transcend tradition. Create new theories.


The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) describes skills and competencies for IT professionals. The seven levels of responsibility in the SFIA framework:

1: Follow
2: Assist
3: Apply
4: Enable
5: Ensure and advise
6: Initiate and influence
7: Set strategy, inspire, and mobilize


There are 5 levels of proficiency defined:
1 Associate
2 Professional
3 Senior Professional / Manager
4 Lead Professional / Senior Manager
5 Principal

Relating Shu-Ha-Ri to SFIA and e-CF Levels

The individual is primarily learning the basics, following procedures, and guidelines set by others.Shu1-21
They have a good grasp of their role, can handle more complex tasks, start mentoring others, and advise on certain specializations.Ha3-53
They’ve reached a form of mastery in their domain. They’re not just practitioners but leaders who shape the direction of their organization or field.Ri6-74-5


You should 

  1. Consider the two frameworks and decide which best works for you. For comparison:
    1. These are the 121 SFIA skills
    2. These are the 41 eCF competences
  2. Choose which skills apply to you
  3. See which levels the framework has for each skill.  There isn’t the full levels 1 to 7 of SFIA or 1-5 of e-CF for every skill. 
  4. Decide which business skills to use in the Shu-Ha-Ri.
  5. If necessary, drag some of the skills down to Shu level.