Misunderstanding Understanding

Pawel’s post about Shu-Ha-Ri fallacy, came about the time I was reading the chapter about it in Lyssa Adkins’ book “Coaching Agile Teams”. And at that time I was thinking about learning and understanding. Coincidence? I think not.

Shu-Ha-Ri is describes the progress in how we do practices: From doing, to understanding, to modifying them. There is an assumption that by doing practices, we are going to advance to understanding why we’re doing them.

I went through this process when learning karate. At first I was doing the movements. Badly, by the way. And I had teachers who corrected me. Over time, I heard more about what’s behind the movements. And kept doing them. I improved over time, and the teachers corrected me. And I opened up to learning, so I learned more.

The understanding I got changed over time. The more I grew (in knowledge, understanding what I do, comparing with others) I was ready to move forward. To pull more in.

And here’s the point. Understanding and learning – both are pull methods, they cannot be pushed.

So when people complain about how their teammates “don’t understand agile”, there’s not much you can do. If you say “they’ll eventually get it” it may be true. Or not. It depends only on them.

Sure, we’d like everyone to understand, to get with the program (our program). The truth is, some may never do that. Others will copy practices but may not understand why they are so important. And some will never understand why it is important to continuously improve. Others may gain a different understanding than ours.

We can’t make people understand

We need to understand that people have different values. That when we are ready for change, others may not be. When we adopt a certain practice, others may not understand why, and may oppose it. We can talk about why values are important, but unless people open up to accept them, the practices based on them will crash.

This is why every change program starts with practices. We can talk about values all we want, but if people don’t have those already, there’s no “Install understanding now” button you can click. I know, I’ve looked for it.

We start with practices, show results, and continuously talk about why these practices work.

And sooner or later they will understand.

Or not.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *