Applying Shape Up


  • Shape Up is a book from Basecamp, written by Ryan Singer. The book basically outlines the principles and process that have been followed by Basecamp over the years, and that company is known to be a lean machine (relatively small team for their revenue), and they’re a customer focused team.

Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters

Some points from Shape up

One of the biggest takeaways from Shape Up, is how the teams would go into 6 week cycles of uninterrupted work.

  • A project is shaped, appetite is decided, then work starts.
  • Appetite is how much time you’re choosing to commit to a shaped project. Meaning the uninterrupted cycles can range from 2 weeks, to 6 weeks.
  • Down time is also planned like this, after a 6 week cycle, you’ve got 2 weeks where you don’t do shaped work. it’s a time to rest, reflect, & work on bugs or whatever else had been ‘put aside’ while in that 6 weeks of laser sharp focus
  • Work is also planned in vertical slices, meaning the ‘end to end’ of the project is developed in that 6 week sprint. that would translate into a team with a designer, & 2 full stack engineers, or a designer, frontend engineer, & backend engineer.

How I’m applying it

  • Because I have daily commitments to Sigma, it limits the time I can spend working on other stuff.
  • I’ve decided to only work on 1 other project outside of Sigma work.
  • It has to be shaped, & appetite decided beforehand.
  • This is mostly because context switching is expensive for me, I’ve gotten much better at it, but it wears me out quicker than a mf. I like to work with large uninterrupted blocks of time, so if I have too much going on, I’ll get nowhere fast.
  • This also allows me to capture the natural ebbs & flows of energy, if I miss out on side-project work today, it’s okay because it’s the only thing I’m committed to for a few weeks. so there’ll always be time to catch up after a good rest. less pressure.
  • There’s so many projects that need attention, so I decide on appetite, and that’s the only other project that has my attention till the end of a cycle. At the time of writing, that project is pro-search. Still very early days, so we’ll see how it goes.

wearing many hats

  • As I’m in a 6 week cycle of making open source contributions to pro-search, I’m also passively shaping up the next project, a migration for DIFTK. Collecting the resources I’ll need, & doing general alignment with [Terry]. This will probably be a small batch cycle.
  • You can’t really schedule shaping work
  • Also have Dataecho work at the back of my mind, have to shape up a cycle, this one will be interesting as I have a new teammate to work with, Vic :)
    • Another project I’m passively shaping up, collecting feedback from the client, and will then get to how workload will be split, plus the appetite.