Shape Up Forum

Any advice implementing Shape Up in a very small org?

I work for a very small organisation - two developers, one part-time support person, and a board of trustees (we’re a charity). It’s transitioned from a side-gig by the founder (the other developer) 9 years ago, to an incorporated charity a year ago. We’ve been using a vague Scrumban approach since I joined full time 18 months ago with mixed success, and now we’re keen to have a go at Shape Up as it seems to fit a lot of our needs.

I appreciate the advice in the appendix to follow principles vs specific methods - e.g. some of the formalities don’t make sense with two people (our trustees provide high level guidance and accountability, not specific project input so aren’t relevant to this level of day-to-day life). However, I think some of the formalities could really help us, e.g. the distinction between a cycle vs cool down would help us to focus on a project whilst knowing we have the time to deal with those bugs or edge cases.

I guess I’m looking for any advice or just stories from other small teams that have had a go “Shaping Up”. What has worked for you? What hasn’t?

An additional point here is that primarily I am the web developer and primarily my colleague is the mobile developer. These are often quite distinct domains for our product - the apps have a large set of customers whilst the website has a much smaller, different set of customers. Sometimes our work dovetails together and requires work on both platforms, but sometimes it is really quite separate. Is having us both working on separate projects, in effect as separate teams, viable with Shape Up?

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It’s really no different in a small org. In my case we have myself (a Product Manager), one designer, and two developers. We implemented Shape Up starting from Nov and are now in our second Cycle. Why not just dive in and give it a try for yourself?

In our case, many of the ideas already resonated with us. We weren’t following Agile, SCRUM, or any other specific methodology. We preferred our own lean way of doing things (some of those ideas we’ve written up here). Shape Up instantly made a lot of sense to us, so we signed up for Basecamp, shortlisted and shaped up our best ideas from the backlog, established our appetite for various tasks, held our first betting table, etc. etc. We’re practicing all the disciplines. The discipline of committing to a cycle made we realize how often I was switching priorities (and interfering with previously decided priorities). Also, the discipline of stopping work at the end of a cycle, and leaving unfinished tasks unfinished, so that you can reassess it’s priority in light of other things that came up, is very helpful. If you’re interested in Shape Up, what’s stopped you from giving it a try? After I first read the doc, when I got to the end, I read it again and had others on my team read it, and we got started with it right away without any further proof from others. The ideas are very rational. That’s enough for us.

However, one area where I disagree with Shape Up is in their suggest to use Basecamp. We gave it a two month trial, but it just feels too immature and unsophisticated compared to other tools available. Here’s an article I wrote about how to do Shape Up in Monday:

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Thanks for your response, Max! I’m having a go at the moment - been shaping a (pre-agreed) project and am about to commit to a cycle and get on with it. I think one of the hardest and most important things is what you’ve said - committing to a cycle, and not being interrupted. That’s what I’m most looking forward to! My colleague is starting to shape some pitches, and I think after this cycle we’ll come together and do a proper betting table.

Thanks for sharing your story and your advice.

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Thanks @ed.b!

if you have any problems along the way and want to talk about anything specific, I’m happy to share more. Just let me know how I can help!

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