Ryan Singer Felt Presence LLC Product Strategy & Tooling

Cohort 5: May 2024

Shaping in Real Life

An Intensive Video Course + Workshop
with Ryan Singer

Cohort 5: May 6-21, 2024
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The next cohort will take place end of Q3/early Q4 2024. Join the waiting list below to find out when we announce the dates.

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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.

But the principles of Shape Up are more needed than ever. I regularly hear from companies who hope they can make Shape Up work for them because they're facing these problems:

  • They're tired of agile rituals that waste peoples' time while projects run longer and longer.
  • The team is taking too long to deliver work that isn't at the right quality.
  • They're building up a new team and don't want to do things the old way.

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 external pressures and 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 tightly interwoven system of Shape Up into separate steps and skills, and piece those together into a workflow that's custom-fit for each company. After going through this with different teams, clear patterns emerged, and I'm very excited to share these techniques with you now in this course.

Shaping in Real Life is an intensive video course and remote workshop that gives you the clarity you need to start applying Shape Up-inspired practices with your team.

You'll learn how to...

  • Speak a common language across all the people in different functional roles who need to collaborate in the product process.
  • Detect hidden time bombs in your design and requirements that explode later as slowdowns, misunderstandings, unexpected complexity and backtracking during delivery.
  • Hold shaping sessions that bring designers and technical people together to surface problems and unknowns early in the project formation.
  • Reveal gaps in understanding between junior and senior or technical and non-technical people and solve them before kick-off.
  • And integrate the techniques you've learned into your current teams and processes.

"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 run shaping sessions with your team.
  • Group Q&A session with Ryan over Zoom to answer specific "what about...?" questions.
  • 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 with coaching
  • Q&A with Ryan about the material so far

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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