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" processes that just shuffle tickets around while projects run longer and longer.
- Growth-stage companies aren't delivering fast enough and need to get back to moving the needle.
- Founders who intuitively "get" product need to put a system in place so they can focus on their growing responsibilities without being part of every decision.
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, focused practices they can adopt one-by-one, and then gradually combining them into a process that's custom-fit for the organization. After going through this with different companies, definite patterns emerged, and I'm very excited to share these techniques with you now in this new video course.
Shaping in Real Life is a new, intensive video course that teaches you the mental model, tools, and language I use to help companies solve their delivery and product process problems.
You'll learn how to...
- Create 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 most importantly, integrate the techniques you've learned into your current teams and processes.
- 11 intensive video lessons, under 20 minutes per lesson. I recommend one lesson per day to digest the material.
- Examples drawn from eight real-life projects from six different teams.
- Exercises to connect the lessons to your circumstance.
- One Q&A Session with Ryan at the end of the course, in a small group of about 20 people over Zoom.
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
- Catching gaps in understanding between junior and senior engineers
- An exercise to "see what they see" when handing over work
- Building confidence on both sides before kicking off the project
- Diagnosing shaping issues with the handoff exercise
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
Cost and Schedule
first early-adopter class
Monday Jan 16 to Friday Jan 27, 2023
Plan 30-45 minutes per weekday on your own schedule for the video lesson, reflection and exercises.
Tuesday Jan 31, 11:00am CST
One Group Q&A with Ryan via Zoom (~20 people) for those who completed all the lessons and exercises
Access to review all the lessons until Mar 31
$2,500 with accepted application
Application Deadline: December 1
Sign up to get notified
The application window for the January class in 2023 has closed. If you'd like to take the course, click the button below to join the waitlist. You'll get an email as soon as there's news about dates for the next class in 2023.
Questions? Write Ryan directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.