Shape Up

Jul'2019 Free ebook/site by BaseCamp folks describing their process.

Foreword by Jason Fried

When it comes to project work, and specifically software development, executing something the wrong way can destroy morale, grind teams down, erode trust, crunch gears, and wreck the machinery of long-term progress.

there’s been a heightened curiosity about how we work at Basecamp.

For one, we’re not into waterfall or agile or scrum. For two, we don’t line walls with Post-it notes. For three, we don’t do daily stand ups, design sprints, development sprints, or anything remotely tied to a metaphor that includes being tired and worn out at the end. No backlogs, no Kanban, no velocity tracking, none of that.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Targeting risk

Six-week cycles

Projects are defined at the right level of abstraction: concrete enough that the teams know what to do, yet abstract enough that they have room to work out the interesting details themselves.

The majority of our new features are built and released in one six-week cycle.

Third, we give full responsibility to a small integrated team of designers and programmers

Making teams responsible


Shaping the work

Second, we shape the work before giving it to a team. A small senior group works in parallel to the cycle teams.

Growing pains

Here’s a short overview of the main ideas in the book.

At every step of the process we target a specific risk: the risk of not shipping on time. This book isn’t about the risk of building the wrong thing. Other books can help you with that (we recommend Competing Against Luck).

This book is about the risk of getting stuck, the risk of getting bogged down with last quarter’s work, wasting time on unexpected problems, and not being free to do what you want to do tomorrow.

We reduce risk in the shaping process by solving open questions before we commit the project to a time box

We reduce risk in the planning process by capping our bets to six weeks. If a project runs over, by default it doesn’t get an extension

How this book is organized

Part One is all about Shaping — the pre-work we do on projects before we consider them ready to schedule.

Part Two is about Betting — how we choose among the pitched projects and decide what to do six weeks at a time.

Part Three is about Building

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