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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

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,468 ratings  ·  181 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
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
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
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!
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.
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
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.
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
We had a lively discussion about Shape Up at work after reading it for a book club. The most widespread criticism was that the Shape Up approach wouldn't necessarily work well for products that are not similar to Basecamp.

On the other hand, even months later we still bring up examples from this book in work discussions around how we manage projects. So the book is definitely a great source of inspiration, and it provides a novel perspective from which to evaluate your own company's project manag
Oleksii Zuiev
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Concise and insightful book on how Basecamp develops their product.
Jon Daiello
Mar 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book by base camp is an excellent framework for designers and developers of all stripes to come together in the ship meaningful work on a regular pattern. The principles and practices they lay out give you powerful strategies for continuing to improve the product experience over and over again. I can’t wait to start Implementing some of these in my work today.
Suraj B
May 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was pretty cool.

This book is a compilation of most of the things I would have wanted in a project execution. The author explains how they shape a work from unknown to known and then build the work to move it from known to done.

I especially loved the way they simplified the project progress using the Hill Charts (I've always been allergic to the agile metrics anyway).

Most importantly, this book teaches us that instead of blindly following a standard, we should be tweaking t
Hots Hartley
Jun 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a reasonable-length, applicable book to software project management and development. I finished reading Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters, then tried it out on a six-week cycle!


① The Concept of Appetite: Letting the scope of a six-week cycle is clear, as well as who controls that decision. The metaphor makes it obvious that the time box and ambition doesn’t change: only the scope.

② The Hill Chart: I love the visuals, especially the colored dots that il
Chitrak gangrade
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read on project management. While you can argue that most of the fundamentals in this book are ones that you know, but that's true for any management book. In the end, it's all common sense. This book helps you put in the right amount of effort without overenginnering planning. While also puts checks and balances to ensure that things don't get out of hand. It's a framework, and a good one.

Few of my notes while reading this book
- I think the basic fundamental of th
Daniil Lanovyi
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inside-big-tech
Basecamp is a unique company and a distinct voice in the sea of copycat tech firms praying to the gods of Agile. Their ways of working are not for everyone, actually to a very few. You can benefit from taking some bits from the book, however small. I found the spirit of the book the most important. For me, it's about questioning dogmas and not doing something just because everyone else is doing it. The book doesn't prescribe, doesn't moralize or even teach. It tells a story of how one small succ ...more
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