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Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters
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Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  1,572 ratings  ·  195 reviews
This is an online web book about how Basecamp does their work.

"This book is a guide to how we do product development at Basecamp. It’s also a toolbox full of techniques that you can apply in your own way to your own process.

Whether you’re a founder, CTO, product manager, designer, or developer, you’re probably here because of some common challenges that all software compa
ebook, 133 pages
Published 2019 by Basecamp
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Mati Roy 29,129 words

methodology: open the PDF (, ctrl. a, ctrl. c, open, ctrl. v, click 'Esti…more
29,129 words

methodology: open the PDF (, ctrl. a, ctrl. c, open, ctrl. v, click 'Estimate'(less)

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Hady Osman
Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommended to Hady Osman by: Bailey
I was originally recommended this book by a friend who made a note on how Basecamp is describing their software development process - that is not waterfall, agile or scrum - and how it works really well for them.

Intrigued by this thought, I immediately picked up the book to understand how another company can have such success without utilising the prevalent agile principles that are ubiquitous in most tech companies today.

The book was a very short and easy read (finished it in a day). This was g
Timon Ruban
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In the intro of “Thinking, Fast and Slow” Kahneman describes his book as an attempt to enrich the vocabulary of "watercooler conversation”. By giving people more precise language to work with, he hopes to enable more succinct and intelligent conversations. “Oh, that sounds like you’re falling prey to the availability heuristic” carries much more meaning than saying “Don’t you think you might be overestimating this, because you maybe read about it in the newspapers recently?”. In the days after r ...more
Bjoern Rochel
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, eng-mgmt
Contains a lot of good, sane advice on how to structure software development efforts and gave me quite a few ideas that I would like to try out at some point (hill diagrams for status reporting, their form of triaging, bets, their cadence, etc).

Thoroughly enjoyed it. A typical Basecamp book
Felipe Gonçalves Marques
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book explains with very good details the process of Product Development in Basecamp.
And, IMO, it is one of the best implementations of Agile practices I ever read/seem. While most of the Scrum practices in companies become a "rush to deliver" methodology. What is presented by Ryan Singer is much more focused in delivering value and focusing in communication.

A few interest points is the cycle length, which is pretty long. – normally people stay in one week and half or two, and checking proces
Read this one for work. The concept is interesting: work with fixed time and variable scope; no backlogs; a single meeting for prioritization and resource allocation. I can see the appeal, though I also see some downsides/risks and how the process may not work as well outside of small companies.

The e-book is pretty short and easy to read. The author did a good job of getting his point across concisely, with concrete examples and illustrations.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not only did I enjoy reading this book, it gave me a better understanding of what I really want from a good work-related book.

First of all, it’s short and concise - 130 pages is very easy to commit to and I finished it in a short time for someone who reads 5-10 books in parallel. It also tells be that the authors respect my time, there is no fluff padding to the core ideas.

The book is free and not printed yet, maybe that is why it is unapologetically specific to Basecamp’s way of doing things a
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book. It shows that to be agile you can start with some good defaults but eventually you have to shift to what's best for your team/company. This book is not revolutionary though. Evolutionary? Yes. They get some of known agile practices from other methods, change their name, size or order and arrange in a way that work for them. For example, they use a 6-week "sprint" but call it a Cycle. In general the names they chose are better names than the ones that existed before.

The more importa
Al Pop
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is two things - it lays out the way the people at Basecamp, the company, work and serves as a detailed manual to Basecamp, the product. It cohesively describes how all the features of the software are supposed to be used, how they fit together, as well as the reasoning behind each of them. There are concrete examples for every concept explained. Many of ideas are examined at different angles depending on the context of the current chapter. The book has nice visual design with well-anno ...more
Aviv Rosental
Mar 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Like other Basecamp's books, I enjoyed reading this one as well.

The book describes Basecamp's process of product development.
It deals with how to take raw ideas and shape them into something that the team can take ownership of, pitching and betting, 6-week sprints, cool-down, standard team sizes, estimations vs appetite, how to define scope - and ways to hammer it down, making the progress and risks more visible, and practical tips of how to introduce and adjust some of these methods into your o
Martijn Reintjes
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
Having a system to run your business or build products is priceless.
Shape up describes how the people at Basecamp/37signals do it, and I must say, it speaks to me.

I've tried structuring my projects with the 12 week year, but that timespan is too long to keep my focus. Also 2 week sprints are too short to do anything meaningful.
Shape up fits right in the middle: 6 weeks
Feels about right!

One big thing is to also not plan a roadmap, just decide what is most meaningful for the next 6 weeks. And that
Stefan Schmager
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shape Up is a short but worthwhile read when it comes to critically assess your own software development processes. I don’t fully agree with all the points made, but would consider most of them true, helpful and valuable based on my personal experience.

If you have read other books from the Basecamp family, you might find the ideas redundant. But the advices given are mostly very actionable and can be applied (with various efforts).

It should help you in terms of prioritising and scoping work as
Jano Suchal
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In a world of software development, where we follow agile ceremonies (daily standups, retrospectives, backlogs) this is a very fresh take on what it means to be truly agile, pragmatic a ship early work that really matters.
Manas Saloi
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ryan Singer is a God. Probably the best book I have read on managing a project. The ideas of taking bets, scoping and plotting scopes in hills were amazing. Please read this if you work in tech :)
Thiago Ghisi
May 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
In short, IMO: Mind-Blowing :exploding_head:.

Super dense 150-pages of pure insights. It is a short book (with the free PDF available online), but pretty dense and I feel it can help a lot of people with tons of insights on how to better “Shape Up” their product delivery processes:

- Six-Week Cycles of Shaping -> Betting -> Building:
- Appetites, not estimates.
- QA and Code Review as Non-blocking activities.
- By default, no projects get extensions. Either they are deployed or they are fully aband
Daniel Szczepanik
Mar 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
These are the types of books that I absolutely love reading. If I were to pick, I'd definitely want every technical book to be written the way Ryan Singer wrote this one. Straight to the point, no bullshit stories and poetic references, Case Studies that actually matter and short, so that you don't feel overwhelmed by the size of the content. It really was a pleasure to read.

On the system itself, I think it can be a life-changer to many companies and while sometimes you can't just implement it f
Hiran Venugopalan
A must read book for those who are working in Product Developoment. This is the kind of clarity you should have if you are building a product!

Big thanks to Ryan Singer for writing Shorthand for UI Designing back in 2009 - it's something I am following since then and has helped me a lot!
Aug 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Download the book here for free:

Basecamp introduces us to their workflow that is neither Waterfall, Kanban or Scrum in this freely downloadable e-book for people working in software development. Here's my summary.

1. Six-week cycles.
Six weeks is long enough to build something meaningful start-to-finish and short enough that everyone can feel the deadline looming from the start, so they use the time wisely.
Our decisions are based on moving the product for
Aug 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Very insightful to learn how a no-100% agile work setup would be able to work in product development.
May 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
Skim read it... 2.5 stars.
I wasn't fond of the tone of this book honestly. And the approach to bugs was odd to me. I was also curious to know how user testing fits into this methodology, but it didn't appear to be covered that I could see.
Lucas Weinmann
Mar 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Many great insights here.
Especially on the hill charts and the idea that a shaped project should not be too abstract, either too concrete.
However, there is a ton of questionable issues here the main ones for me are:
- Abolishing the backlog while suggesting a terrible huge to-do list that does not inform the status of a task.
- Separating the discovery process from the development team. It is like having two teams (one high profile senior team, that shapes, and a junior team, that builds) and that
Aakanksha Jain
This book is interesting, but even so I failed trying to read it/procasinated a lot.
I think the better way to read it is as a reference book. Parts of this book are relevant to my current job, and so bit by bit I completed it.

Anytime I needed an answer this book can give, I ended up reading it + this approach was extremely helpful + interesting.
Arturo Herrero
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another great book by the people of Basecamp.

The Shape Up method:
- Shaped versus unshaped work
- Designing at the right level of abstraction
- Setting appetites instead of estimates
- Concepting with breadboards and fat marker sketches
- Making deliberate commitments—bets— instead of feeding the machine
- Choosing the right cycle length (six weeks)
- A cool-down period between cycles
- Breaking projects apart into scopes
- Downhill versus uphill work and communicating about unknowns
- Scope hammering to
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was amazing. Finally I read a book about product development that is NO bullshit, firmly grounded in the firms actual practices based on trial and error, and is based on the most important aspect of development - shipping the work.

Key takeaways for me here were:
- Detailed and case study based approach to designing with abstraction (fat markers / breadboarding). Very clearly articulated the how and why ‘shaping’ in this way early on will be beneficial later.
- Separating work into scopes, a
Radosław Adamiak
Apr 04, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: shit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eric Connelly
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, business
I'm a big fan of Basecamp and whatever they want to write. I love the work they've done to think clearly and edit fully. This book is ideal for managers of software teams and (like Rework) is remarkably short and simply written. You can easily fly through it in a week, and get a lot of valuable ideas out of it.

For me some of the key takeaways were about
- the two parallel tracks of shaping (managers) and doing (dev teams)
- shaped work means a rough solution with clear scope boundaries
- use 6 w
Praneet Rohida
Feb 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It was the perfect time to pick this up since we are in the process of improving our processes and see what works best for us.

There were a lot of learnings/concepts that I could scale down to our shorter release cycle and much smaller team. Though I did not completely agree with all the solutions mentioned in the book, it did a good job at pointing out the problems and gave me anchor points around which I can shape my own solutions.

The concept of hill charts felt very out of place to be honest.
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This puts together a lot of ideas you probably have when building a project. Some things may sound obvious, but here you can see them well organized and in action. I'm not sure if the same process will work for other kind of projects/companies, some times feels very coupled to bootcamp (they even use their product in the examples), but I guess is expected. ...more
Le Dat
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book details how Basecamp runs Agile her way and it really makes sense. A reference book that timing and result technically matter, gives us advices to make a true LEAN business from abstract.

How is it? - Just another less communication agile book because everything is visible and freedom has been shaped up.
Craig Treptow
Mar 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
This describes an interesting way to run projects. It sounds so easy! I'm not sure it is, but I would love to be on a team where we tried this 100% at least once before tweaking things.

I think there are truths in things like not all bugs being emergencies. I wondered how they dealt with pull requests and the review process. I guess the answer is that they normally don't. It can add value to them, but is not required.

I think 100% WFH asynchronously would be VERY interesting to commit to. I don't
Andrea Rossi
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book is a quick read and it does a nice job at explaining how product development is done at Basecamp. Their practices fit well together and make a lot of sense, and even if a company is not going to adopt them 1:1, there are a lot of good concepts that are worth considering (shaping the work, timeboxed bets, managing well the scope, easy to read progress reports..). Totally recommended
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