What is Shape Up?

The Shape Up method is a way for software development teams to optimize their workflow, improve their output, and make more out of the time they put into any product development process.

What is Shape Up?
Shape Up

The Shape Up Method is a product development strategy that encourages teams to take a holistic view of their product. The strategy encourages teams to focus on the entire product experience, from early concept through to launch. The goal is to create a product that is easy to use, well designed, and meets the needs of the user.

The Shape Up Method has been successful in creating successful products. Examples include the iPhone and Amazon Kindle.

In this article, we'll look at how the Shape Up Method works, and we'll explore how it can be applied.

What is the Shape Up Method?

The Shape Up Method is a proven system for developing and selling products. It has been successfully used by thousands of product development professionals around the world.

According to the Shape Up method, product development teams shape, bet on, and build meaningful products using specific processes and procedures. The final goal is to achieve a great product on time by addressing risks and unknowns at each stage of the product development process and providing teams with language and specific techniques to address these risks and unknowns.

Using Shape Up as a tool, product managers can improve their product development results by bridging the gap between product management and the software developers in the field. This is a framework for the development of software products.

In reality, Shape Up is a method that seeks to solve this nagging problem by offering organizations tools that provide a way to bridge the understanding gap, improve project estimations, and prevent projects from tying up too much of their resources.

Shape Up Method: What's its History?

This method was developed by Basecamp based on its own internal product development process. The concept was introduced externally in the book Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters by Ryan Singer, Manager of Product Strategy at Basecamp.

As expressed by Singer, "one of the core tensions in product management is the tension between the need for detailed implementation details on a day-to-day basis and the need for long-term planning on a strategic level. In the absence of a resolution, this tension leads to missed deadlines, tangled codebases, bad morale, and many other problems.

While Basecamp suffered growing pains on its own, it saw an opportunity to address a new set of challenges that were become increasingly apparent to them on the way (e.g., massive projects without clear boundaries or firm deadlines; long-term strategic considerations overshadowed by day-to-day issues involving product management, and delivering tangible products on time).

With time, Basecamp created what eventually would be called the Shape Up Method, a process for better defining and prioritizing projects before handing them off to the respective teams for development and shipment.

This problem has been plaguing organizations for many years, and Shape Up aims to make it easier for organizations to bridge this understanding gap, estimate their projects more accurately, and make certain projects do not push deadlines to the right.

Shape Up: How does it Work?

Shape Up is a product development company that uses a unique approach to help businesses improve their products. The Shape Up Method is a process that helps business owners identify and fix flaws in their products. By using the Shape Up Method, businesses can improve their appeal to customers and increase sales.

Getting a project done with Shape Up can be divided into three distinct phases:

  1. Shaping 
    Those on the senior team, who will not actually execute the project, should be able to define the problem and the solution in the correct manner. As part of the shaping process, the teams need to achieve a balance between being sufficiently explicit, so that the team knows what to do, while not being too prescriptive that they are restricted from figuring out interesting details on their own. Keeping this balance is a delicate process.
  2. Betting
    Some senior members of the management team attend such meetings where the shaped projects are discussed and, together, the decision is made whether to approve the projects or reject them. The shaped projects that do not make it through the selection process are not stored in a systematic manner.
  3. Building 
    The team involved in the shaped project delivers the project with all skill sets present in the team and is fully responsible for the scope in a six-week cycle. Either the project has been completed, or it has been killed, at the end of the six weeks. While extensions are possible, they are exceedingly rare and discouraged.

Shape Up: The Concepts You Need To Know

If you want to be a successful product developer, you need to have a good understanding of basic concepts in shape modeling and optimization. By understanding these concepts, you'll be better equipped to create products that are both efficient and attractive to users.

The Shape Up Method was developed on the basis of the following key concepts:

  • Six-week work cycle
    Establishes a realistic time frame for completing a task and provides a firm deadline so that everyone has a clear understanding of how much time they should use each day.
  • Work shaping
    In a small group of senior product leaders, a project is explored and defined before it is given to the whole team to build. It is important to strike a balance between concreteness, which can provide direction, and abstraction (which gives teams room to work), when it comes to shaping projects. Before releasing it to an entire project team, the shaping process helps resolve open questions.
  • Team responsibility
    In addition, team members have the ability to define tasks, make adjustments to scope, and essentially do their best work when they are free to do so. The result of this is also that managers have the opportunity to focus on shaping better projects instead of micromanaging teams.
  • Reducing risk
    Shape Up has at its core a goal of reducing the risk of a shipment not arriving on time.
  • Betting
    An approach in which a project is chosen for a six-week cycle, thus prioritizing the importance of the project for future development. According to a survey, 41% of product managers rate their process for planning and prioritizing new initiatives as being 3 / 5 on a scale of 1 to 5.

Shape Up: How to Implement

Product development is an important aspect of any business. It's the process of developing a new product or improving an existing one. There are a lot of different steps that go into product development, and it can be a bit daunting to figure out how to go about it. Here are some tips on how to start product development and get it rolling with the Shape Up method.

The development of a new product is a complex process that can be improved through the use of various tools and techniques. One popular tool for product development is the "Shape Up" technique. This approach helps companies focus on key aspects of their products and develop them in a more efficient manner.

There are several steps that need to be followed when using the Shape Up technique:

  1. Define the product vision- This step involves developing a clear understanding of what the product should do and what benefits it should provide to customers.
  2. Create a requirements document- The requirements document defines all of the specific features and functions that the product must have.
  3. Select a prototype platform- The prototype platform is used to create a working model of the product. It can be anything from a simple sketch to an actual software prototype.
  4. Develop a product plan- The product plan is used to create a detailed schedule and budget for the project.
  5. Test and refine the prototype platform- Testing the prototype platform will ensure that all of the functions work as intended.
  6. Create a finished product- If the prototype platform passes all of its tests, then an actual product can be created.
  7. Produce the finished product- The final step involves making sure that there aren't any bugs in the product that may cause it to fail.
  8. Market and sell the product- After a company has created and sold a product, then they can begin to make money.

In order to ensure product success, it is important for companies to have a plan in place for integrating the new product into their business. This plan should include the steps necessary for developing and launching the product as well as how it will be managed after launch. Failing to plan can result in missed opportunities, wasted resources, and delayed time-to-market.

One of the most important steps in product development is market research. This should include studying what products are currently available, what features are being offered, and what customers want. It is also important to understand the company's target market and how the new product will fit into that market. Once the research is complete, a strategy can be developed for bringing the product to market.

The development process itself should be well organized and include specific milestones that need to be met in order to stay on track. Managing the product development process is also important. This includes deciding which products to develop, how they should be marketed, and whether more than one major version of the product will be necessary.

It also involves communicating with the company's partners during each stage of the process. At the end of a product development process, management should have defined the product's features and benefits. The features are those features that will differentiate it from the competition. The benefits are what users will gain from using the new or improved product.

Spend more time planning before you start a project

It's easy to dive in and start working on a project, but spending more time planning can save you a lot of headaches down the road. By taking the time to map out what you want to do and how you're going to do it, you can avoid problems like wasted time and materials, or features that don't work well together.

Project managers use the 6 weeks that Shape Up's teams spend on product development to plan the next 6 weeks by defining a project, defining its boundaries, defining its risks, and determining how it works and where it belongs in the existing process.

It would be ideal to set realistic goals with some abstract elements that would give developers a rough idea of what direction to take, but allow them the freedom to develop it according to their own preferences.

It is important that as soon as the plan is made, it is presented to the team for comments and feedback, which will help identify any missing elements that might have fallen through the cracks.

There are basic benefits to this process, which is to prevent major issues from occurring, such as the scope of the project going out of scope, unforeseen issues slowing down the process, and too many rounds of review/editing in the later stages of the execution.

Is Shape Up a process framework?

Shape Up is not a framework. It is a toolbox full of techniques that you can apply as you see fit in your own process. Shape Up will not help. It is important to use the right tool for the job, and Shape Up is not the right tool for process improvement. There are many process improvement frameworks out there, such as Lean, Six Sigma, and Agile, that are designed to help you improve your process. Shape Up does not include any of these frameworks, and so it will not help you improve your process.

Is Shaping the same as refinement?

There is a lot of overlap between shaping and refinement, but there are also some key differences. Shaping is the process of preparing the work so it can be refined. This includes making sure all the pieces are in place and that the work is ready for further refinement. Refinement is the actual process of making the work better. This can involve fixing errors, improving the writing, and making sure everything flows together correctly.

Shaping and refinement are two important steps in creating a finished product. They both play a crucial role in making sure the work is ready for publication or display. However, they are different processes and should not be confused with each other.

In Shape Up, what does it mean to bet?

Shape Up is a term used in business for the act of betting or choosing which projects get a team to work on for a cycle of 6 weeks. A group of important stakeholders come together and decide which project they feel is most important and should be given the most attention. This usually means that the team working on this project will have to be dedicated to it full time for the next six weeks. It can be a risky move, but if it pays off, the company can see significant improvements.


In conclusion, the Shape Up Method is a proven system for developing and selling products. It has been successfully used by thousands of product development professionals around the world, and it can help you create a successful product, too. So, if you're looking to develop a new product, be sure to check out the Shape Up Method.

FAQ for Shape Up

What about bugs? How do teams handle these with no backlog?

It is not necessary to put everything on hold in order to solve a bug. There is no specialized process for dealing with bugs.  They need to be corrected if they are serious, but the majority of them may wait for at least six weeks.

In the event that there is a genuine emergency, the product team will be able to self-organize in order to eradicate the most significant errors and address problems that have persisted for some time. If a defect is too large to address during the amount of time in between cycles when the system is supposed to be cooling down, then it might compete for resources at the table where bets are placed. We commit a whole cycle to the process of problem repair once every year.