Shape Up Forum

Does shape up extend to the entire company?

First, thank you for being so transparent as to the inner workings of your company. I’m resonating with so much of the philosophy behind the shape up method as well as many other insights you have shared regarding how you have structured Basecamp in some of your other books and live streams. Definitely looking into how I can incorporate as many of these into my own company without causing too much unnecessary disruption.

I’m curious as to how much of the Shapeup philosophy extends or doesn’t into some other areas of the business such as Customer Support / Sales / Marketing / etc. Do you find that some of the teams either can’t function in as much an Asynchronous and minimally distracting type of environment?

How does this relate to customer support or sales?
For example, how do you handle the customer support team getting back to customers and solving their problems quickly if those items come up during the 6 week cycle? I’m aware that there is a difference between urgent and important (though customers are not). Do you have some developers who just don’t get the same “uninterrupted” work time as others and work with support? Does support simply not get the privilege of as much flexibility and freedom or do they get so in some other way?

What about teams that don’t seek any external resources for the projects they are working on?
Similarly, if you have a marketing team, do they have their own programmers for their projects, or do their projects also fall into the same 6 week cycle? If a team isn’t pulling any external resources (i.e. developers or designers outside of that team) do they even get mentioned in your cycle announcements?

For instance, say a marketing team decided they wanted to do some sort of market research, and that was only taking their time (they didn’t require a programmer or designer)? Do you allow them to do that un-pitched and perhaps not even in sync with the “cycle” or do you require them to pitch as well and you bet on those projects to be worked on the next cycle?

Hope this makes sense.


First, it’s good to clarify the difference between a true product company and a client service company. Sometimes people think of themselves as product companies but actually they are making custom software based on the requests of the clients.

Second, everything can wait six weeks. Nothing is that urgent unless there is data loss or some kind of crisis. If a customer raises an issue, and you decide it’s very important, you can decide at the next betting table to make it top priority for the next cycle.

Similarly, if you have a marketing team, do they have their own programmers for their projects, or do their projects also fall into the same 6 week cycle?

This is going to vary. In our case at Basecamp, marketing doesn’t need programmers. Our marketing person does both the design and the technical work.

In general, we do have the whole company on six week cycles because it makes reporting and syncing up easier. But in practice, the “shape -> bet -> build” loop only applies to the product teams.

Shaping in principle is valuable for any project — it always helps to clarify what you’re trying to do and set an appetite before you bet time on it. But as a process in the organization, we only apply it strictly to the product teams.