Chris Gibbs
Chris Gibbs
Fibery solution architect
Product Updates

Shape up with Fibery

We’ve just released a new template for developing products using the ‘shape up’ methodology.

Find it here, or add it directly to your workspace from the Templates gallery

Shape → Bet → Build

‘Shape up’ is a product development approach from Ryan Singer (of Basecamp) that aims to help teams ship faster 🏃‍♂️

It’s based on the concept of “fixed time, variable scope” bets, where development teams are tasked with working on a selected project for a fixed period. When you know that you only have 6 weeks to work on something, it’s easier to focus on the must-haves, and only delivering on the nice-to-haves if everything goes to plan (which it never does 😕).

In order to ensure the development team deliver what is needed, it’s a product manager’s job is to take some rough’n’ready ideas and shape them into a form that will allow the build cycle to be as productive as possible. This means defining clearly what the problem to be solved is, whilst not overly constraining the details of implementation. This is the ‘shaping’ process from which the methodology gets its name.

Any ideas that have been suitably ‘shaped’ can be pitched at a ‘betting table’ ♠♦♣♥ a meeting where the pitched projects are discussed and evaluated, before one is chosen to be taken forward in the next build cycle 🥇 (and others are rejected) 🚽

Overall, it can be viewed as steps in a funneling process whereby a bunch of ideas get fed in and a completed project comes out of the other end (or if you’re unlucky, an incomplete project is delivered 😧 ).

Shaping, betting, building

Shaping, betting, building

Cycle timing

In terms of timing, the shaping process is actually happening while the previous build cycle is underway, so the timeline is something like this.

From Shape Up by Ryan Singer
From Shape Up by Ryan Singer

Back in the mix

If a project does not make it all the way through the funnel to completion, it’s perfectly acceptable to put it back into the pile of ideas so that it can be (re-)shaped and compete for attention with any other projects that you might want to work on.

back in the pile

In this way, there is no ‘backlog’. A backlog gives a feeling like you’re always behind even though you’re not. With ‘shape up’, no time is spent on grooming and organizing things that might not get worked on in the next 6 months (or ever!) 🥴

Instead, the focus is on shaping an idea into something meaningful, and then letting it compete against other projects for the limited time and attention of the development team.

Pitches

The content of a pitch is fairly well-defined:

  1. Problem — The raw idea, a use case, or something we’ve seen that motivates us to work on this

  2. Appetite — How much time we want to spend and how that constrains the solution

  3. Solution — The core elements we came up with, presented in a form that’s easy for people to immediately understand

  4. Rabbit holes — Details about the solution worth calling out to avoid problems

  5. No-gos — Anything specifically excluded from the concept: functionality or use cases we intentionally aren’t covering to fit the appetite or make the problem tractable

There’s not much point in elaborating on these here, you can read all about it but the ‘appetite’ is worth touching upon 🍕

It is a way of defining how important the project is. If you don’t think that an idea deserves the whole 6 weeks of development time, you can set the appetite to ‘small’. This is saying that it should not be worked on for more than 2 weeks. In this way, 3 small projects could be packed into a single build cycle.

appetite

The Fibery template

The Fibery ‘shape up’ template has databases for Products and their related Projects. Each Project is further broken down into Scopes and To-dos. There are also databases for the Betting and Build Cycles to which a Project could be allocated (as a pitch or a bet).

space map

The template has three major left-menu sections, one for each phase of the shape up process.

Within these folders are ‘smart folders’. Smart folders are a special feature of Fibery that in this case, really allow you to only focus on what matters 🔍 something that the ‘shape up’ methodology emphasizes.

template

Shaping

For Shaping, there is a smart folder filtered to show all Projects that have not been completed, nested under their respective Product area.

In this way, a Product owner can quickly get an overview of the possible Projects he/she might want to be shaping and pitching.

Shaping the project
Shaping the project

Betting

For Betting, there is a smart folder, that is only populated during the period of a betting cycle.

It contains a ‘Pitches’ feed view of all projects that are currently being pitched. Prior to the betting table meeting, attendees can review this list to see which projects are up for selection.

Reviewing the pitches
Reviewing the pitches

Building

For Building, there is a smart folder, that is populated with the project(s) that have been bet on for the current build cycle.

For the development team(s) this eliminates any distractions, whilst also allowing project/product managers to monitor progress.

Progress on the Project's Scopes can be quickly visualised
Progress on the Project's Scopes can be quickly visualised

The Project's Scopes are broken down into To-dos, whose status can be updated
The Project's Scopes are broken down into To-dos, whose status can be updated

If all of this sounds intriguing, why not try Fibery and give the Shape Up template a go.

use this template

We’re here to help if you need it, and are open to feedback if you think it could be improved 👂

Subscribe to new articles via email 📬

1-2 emails per months. No spam.