Shape Up Forum

How long does the shape up process take? What is the process to select what to shape up?

I understand the build cycle is 6 weeks. But how long does the shape up process itself take?
Also, what is the process to select what to shape up?

Hi irispan, this picture is very helpful to understand how it works. Shaping the next features goes in parallel with your development team building the features that have been shaped the previous cycle. So shaping takes 6 weeks.

on your second question, according to the book: " we shape the work before giving it to a team. A small senior group works in parallel to the cycle teams. They define the key elements of a solution before we consider a project ready to bet on." - so the senior team defines the next features to work on. It is a top-down approach where a small group defines the next features to release. How they select next features, it depends, I guess it all comes down to instinct, data available and customer requests. I found an interesting post about strategy here, in particular Ryan’s answer. It might help you understand how Basecamp senior team operate: What about "strategy"?

further readings:


There isn’t a definitive answer. It depends on the project you’re shaping…

I typically advise our teams to move as quickly as you can, but to take as much time as you need.

You don’t want to spend too much time on an idea that might not get implemented (remember everything that’s shaped is just an option to do something). It’s not until you make your bets before a cycle that you know for sure you’re moving forward with something. You also want to give the team working on the project enough creative room to figure out the best possible solution… so don’t over-define something during the shaping phase.

At the same time, you want to make sure you’ve put enough work into your pitch so that you can have a good conversation about the proposal while deciding whether to move it forward or not, and most importantly, you want to make sure you’re giving the team enough information to succeed.

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I think this is a little misleading. I think every 6 weeks you need to have something to hand to a team, but I think some projects take months to shape and take form. I get the feeling that Ryan (and others I’m sure) are constantly collecting ideas and breaking them down, proving and disproving their worth, he just has 6 weeks to pull one out of the “possibility bucket” and decide that it’s the next best thing, and properly shape and de-risk it.

Correct me if I’m wrong @rjs.

Yes @justgage, that’s right.

If we don’t have anything shaped, then we technically have six weeks to put something together.

In practice we usually have a variety of things, long running or spur-of-the-moment, in the “possibility bucket” that are either shaped or on the verge of being shaped.

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