Ryan Singer Felt Presence LLC Product Strategy & Tooling

Shaping in Real Life

An Intensive Video Course + Workshop
with Ryan Singer

Next cohort: May 2024
Exact dates to be announced soon
Get notified of future cohorts:

Shaping in Real Life is an intensive course that lifts the fog and shows you how real-world teams apply Shape Up in practice.

The course is for you if one of these things is happening:

  • Your team's not delivering on time or at the right quality, and people are starting to point fingers.
  • You're hitting bottlenecks as you grow because the few people who could instinctively shape and frame can't do it all themselves anymore.
  • You're building up a new team and you don't want to do things the old way (sprints, agile rituals, lots of meetings).

While Shape Up continues to resonate throughout the software industry, very few companies are able to apply the process by-the-book. That's because most companies aren't structured like 37signals, the makers of Basecamp, where Shape Up was created. They aren't self-funded, with a close-knit team of senior technical people and designers who code.

Over the last couple years, I've worked with a wide variety of companies with very different structures — teams with big gaps between junior and senior levels, where programmers far out-number the designers, or where time constraints make long six-week cycles out of the question.

The key to helping teams in such circumstances has been to break apart the pure by-the-book system of Shape Up into separate, focused practices you can adopt one-by-one, and then gradually combine into a way of working that's custom-fit for your organization. After going through this with different companies, definite patterns emerged, and I'm very excited to share these techniques with you in this ever-evolving course.

After this two-week intensive course, you'll be able to:

  • Identify time-bombs in your pre-project work that explode as unexpected complexity and time-consuming back-and-forth after the project starts.
  • Hold shaping sessions that surface risky unknowns and align your team on what to build in days instead of weeks.
  • Speak a common language across business, design, and engineering through the whole lifecycle of your projects.
  • Crystalize your end-to-end understanding so you can confidently lead your team toward a better way of working.

"The amount of clarity this process provides to engineers is unbelievable."

"That was one of the first projects that went wonderfully. I knew who to go to and when to finish."

"I came back with new clarity to address where we were struggling with shaping before. Already after two weeks, everyone in the team got the hang of it. The clarity and happiness in the engineering team increased drastically."

How the course works

  • We offer the course in small cohorts of ~20 people, 3-4 times a year.
  • 11 intensive video lessons, under 20 minutes each, released one-per-day.
    • The lessons include examples from eight real-life projects and six different teams. Each lesson is followed by "Make it Real" questions that help you connect what you learned to what's going on with your team.
  • Shaping Workshop with Ryan over Zoom to build the hands-on skills you need to hold shaping sessions with your team.
  • Group Q&A session with Ryan over Zoom at the end to fill any gaps.
  • Tickets are $2,500 per seat.

(You can also ask about a private cohort. We can schedule a course for 5 to 20 members of your team. Reach out to Ryan at rjs@feltpresence.com.)

Detailed Outline of the Course


  • Foundational Lesson: Hills and Time Bombs

    • Build the mental model you'll use to work on your product process

Module 1: Supply Side

  • Lesson 1: How to Evaluate Shaped Work

    • Tracing delivery problems back to the shaping phase
    • Understanding what builders need to succeed within time constraints
  • Lesson 2: Who Shapes

    • Involving technical people to find viable options earlier
    • Using interaction design as the bridge between design and tech
    • How to stop producing design work that doesn't get built
    • How the product role helps make trade-offs
  • Lesson 3: Shaping Sessions

    • Setup and tools to run a shaping session
    • Breadboarding technique, case study
    • System Language technique, case study
    • Parts and Paths technique to try alternate approaches at once, case study
  • Lesson 4: Spiking

    • Answering unknowns in the shaping process that require digging deeper
    • Spiking in different domains: high-fidelity design, code, security, legal
    • How to make sure spikes come back with actionable information
  • Lesson 5: Packaging

    • How to prepare the delivery team to work autonomously in the time box
    • Recognizing issues with common kick-off practices
    • Deciding how much design up-front to do based on schedule and availability
    • Techniques to use scarce designer time more effectively
  • Lesson 6: Handoff

    • Catch gaps in understanding between junior and senior engineers
    • Ensure that what the team builds matches the original intent
    • Learn a tool to "see what they see" when handing over work
    • Diagnose shaping issues with the handoff tool
  • Shaping Workshop over Zoom

    • Shaping sessions in breakout groups
    • Q&A with Ryan about Module 1

Module 2: Demand Side

  • Lesson 7: Introduction to Framing

    • Defining the problem to get long-desired projects unstuck
    • Using stronger data to get alignment on undervalued projects
  • Lesson 8: How to Frame

    • How to run framing sessions
    • Building the case with data
    • Doing demand-side interviews to define the problem, case study
    • Using the frame to test and validate ideas in shaping sessions
  • Lesson 9: Framing & Prioritization

    • Using framing to give projects "staying power" in the face of challenges
    • Managing the perception vs. reality of idea boards and road maps
    • Planning multi-cycle projects

Tying it all Together

  • Lesson 10: Three Levels of Adoption

    • Using the language and tools in your current process
    • How to run a pilot project
    • Decisions and options for designing your product process
    • Final pointers
  • Q&A Session over Zoom

    • Q&A with Ryan and next steps discussion

Questions? Reach out to Ryan at rjs@feltpresence.com.

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