Shape Up formalized the way Basecamp did product development during my time there from 2003 to 2021. While the principles from the book apply very broadly, whether you can do it in practice depends on the structure of your team. Basecamp at that time was small, boot-strapped, and full of senior technical people, with a high ratio of designers to developers. I've seen companies that match that description who can directly adopt Shape Up as it's described in the book.
If your company doesn't match that description, you'll likely have more questions you need to answer and adjustments you need to make to adopt Shape Up. You might have separately managed product and engineering departments, a wider mix of junior and senior people, fewer designers compared to programmers, and more pressure from investors to show movement toward specific goals.
Since I first wrote Shape Up in 2019, I've worked with a wider variety of teams. The key to helping teams in different circumstances has been to break apart the tightly interwoven system of Shape Up into separate, focused practices that you can adopt one by one and piece together to fit the exact shape of your organization. After doing this a few times, patterns appeared, and I'm ready to share them more widely.
Shaping in Real Life is a video course I've built to teach companies who aren't exactly like Basecamp how to put the principles of Shape Up into practice. The course answers questions like:
- Who shapes?
- How do we make time for shaping?
- How do we run shaping sessions? (in person or remotely)
- How do we deal with the skill gap between junior and senior developers?
- How do we catch unknowns and unexpected scope earlier in a cycle?
You'll also learn how to break the shaping process into fixed phases with clearer interfaces, so people on your team have a common language and shared picture of where the work stands and what needs to happen next to move it forward.
The course is a series of video modules. It's short and pithy, so you can find the answers you need, put them into practice quickly, and revisit them when you need to. I'm aiming to release it in December before the year is up.
If this sounds interesting, sign up below and I'll send you an email when the course goes live. And feel welcome to write me if you have questions about it.
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