Ryan Singer

Head of Product Strategy, Basecamp

UPDATED: June 7, 2018

Hill Charts are now a feature of Basecamp 3. See the announcement here: See where projects really stand with the Hill Chart

February 14, 2018

Tasks and tickets aren't enough to track the progress of work. It's crucial to understand not only what's done, but what's unknown. How does the team feel about the unknowns in the work? Are there things that need to be figured out still? Are there things that we might not find a solution for? Or have we investigated all the unknowns already and it's just a matter of execution?

Work is like a hill with two sides. There's an uphill phase of figuring out what to do and how to approach the problem. That’s the climb. After you reach the top, there aren’t any more ruinous unknowns. You can see down to the other side and finish executing. It's straightforward to estimate and finish the work from that point.

Sketch showing two sides of the hill: uncertainty and certainty

The Hill Chart captures this intuition and reflects it back to the team. Each piece of work that can move independently gets a dot and team members update the position to reflect their current knowledge.

Hill Chart example

This eliminates risk earlier in the project. Tracking the progress of work from unknown to known sparks deeper conversations about what kind of work needs to be done at what time.

Teams naturally hide uncertainty. The Hill Chart broadcasts each degree of uncertainty as a meaningful step along the way toward finishing the project.

We're currently experimenting with the Hill Chart at Basecamp. For an early write-up, see the "Uphill Strategies" section of Running in Circles.

Hill Chart example