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Mastering a new skill: Mindset vs. Framework

As an Agile coach, I've learned quite a lot about project management, teamwork, communication, and leadership. I use many of those skills daily, whether it's in my personal life or professional life. When I teach people about Agile, I tell them that it's an umbrella term and can refer to a mindset or a framework (the most popular framework being Scrum). Sometimes people want to skip over using a framework and just learn the mindset. However, with any new skill, it's difficult to really develop the mindset without first following some sort of framework or system. The Shu-Ha-Ri Mastery Model Do you remember when you first learned to cook? You probably followed a recipe and measured the exact ingredients that were called for, leveling off your teaspoons or measuring cups, so everything would be “just right.” As you became a more experienced cook, you learned that you could tweak the recipe a bit to your taste. You like things sweet, so you add a little extra sugar. Or maybe you experiment with a substitution or two, leaving out that green pepper, or adding a secret spice. Finally, when you’re a chef, you create new recipes all your own. You have enough of a keen palette to know what foods work well together and you’re not afraid to experiment with entirely new combinations. There’s a mastery model used in martial arts called “Shu-Ha-Ri” that describes this progression. In the “Shu” stage, you’re learning the recipe or following a model. You tweak or adapt the model in the “Ha” stage, and ultimately, when you’ve fully mastered the skill, you no longer need to follow a model and you can use your skills to create entirely new masterpieces, using your unique talents. When I learned of this mastery model, I found that it could be applied to just about every skill. You start as a beginner by following a ‘recipe,’ pattern, or system of some sort. Once you know the basics, you can start to deviate and adapt to your particular context. Eventually, you will develop the skill or a “mindset” and will no longer need a ‘recipe.’ Let’s take gratitude, for example. Many people suggest keeping a ‘gratitude journal’ and say that this exercise has been proven to improve happiness. This article from Greater Good tells us exactly how to do this, writing “up to 5 things,” three times a week. I did this exercise, but quickly adapted to writing as few or as many things as I wanted. Although the article suggests only three times a week, I did this every night as part of my bedtime routine. I soon found that I was looking for things to write in my gratitude journal. I noticed the colorful flowers, the unexpected text from a friend, a smile and friendly comment from a stranger.. I soon found that my day was filled with quotidian happenings that would be fodder for my gratitude journal. I no longer write in a gratitude journal, but I am continuously noticing things I’m grateful for. The practice of using a gratitude journal helped me develop the skill and a mindset of gratitude. Besides feeling more grateful, the practice proved successful in the overall goal of helping me feel happier, optimistic, and resilient. Before developing a mindset, however, you usually need to develop and practice the skills that lead to that mindset, often by following certain practices or a framework. Just like a new cook learns by following recipes, and a new musician learns to read music, someone who is new to "Agile" usually learns a framework, like Scrum. However, as skills develop, a mindset is developed. The more seasoned agilist, like the master chef, can mix and match agile techniques to create a framework that works best in their specific environment.

Yvette Francino is an independent Agile coach, trainer, and writer. She hosts a podcast, Carpe Diem Connections, about living life fully and fostering deep and meaningful connections. See for more information.

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