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We built Basecamp to implement the Shape Up method. Instead of scattering our work across multiple tools, Basecamp centralizes all project communication, task management, and documentation in one place. Here’s how we use it.

A Basecamp Team for shaping

  1. Create a Basecamp Team for shaping. We call ours “Product Strategy.”
  2. Add the people doing the shaping, any trusted people who give feedback on pitches, and the people who bet at the betting table. Keep this group small and announce the bets more widely elsewhere (we use Basecamp’s HQ for that), when it’s time to kick off a cycle.
  3. Post pitches as Messages on the Message Board. We created a Message Category called “Pitch” with the light bulb emoji for the icon.
  4. Use the Campfire chat room to bounce ideas and coordinate the betting table between cycles. We conduct the actual betting table meeting over video chat.
A screenshot of a Message Board in a Basecamp team called Product Strategy. Five Pitches appear in the list.

Pitches on the Message Board of the Product Strategy team in Basecamp

Screenshot of another Pitch in Basecamp. The part of the pitch that is scrolled into view has a fat marker sketch embedded in the middle.

A sketch drawn on an iPad in the middle of a pitch

A screenshot of a Message announcing a cycle in Basecamp. Jason, the author, introduces it with some remarks about the type of work in the cycle. Then headings below introduce each project in the cycle with a short paragraph of commentary each.

Jason announces the bets for the next cycle in the HQ—a Team in Basecamp that includes the whole company

Basecamp Projects for the cycle projects

  1. Create a Basecamp Project for each project in the six-week cycle. We usually prepend a name or number for the cycle like this: “Cycle 4: Autopay.”
  2. Add the designer and programmers who are working on this project to the Basecamp Project.
  3. Post a kick-off message to the Message Board with the pitch or a restatement of the shaped work for the team’s reference.
Screenshot of creating a project in Basecamp named: Cycle 4: Autopay

Creating the project

Screenshot of the screen in Basecamp where you add people to the project. A designer and programmer being added.

Adding the designer and programmer

Screenshot of a kick-off message in Basecamp. The message is titled 'Hill Charts Concept'. Some text starts explaining how the feature is going to relate to the existing to-do functionality. A fat marker sketch is below the text.

The first thing on the project is a kick-off message with the shaped concept

The team in the Campfire chat room discusses the work. The designer says: We'll need to stub in the Hill Chart Editor. The programmer responds: I can add an empty controller for the editor. The programmer goes on to share some early thinking about how to model the attributes.

The team uses the chat room in the Basecamp project to communicate as they get started

To-Do Lists for scopes

  1. After the team gets oriented they start spiking, discover tasks, and map them into scopes.
  2. In the Basecamp Project, the team creates a To-Do List for each scope, like “Start Autopay” or “ACH Option.” Sometimes we use the description field on the To-Do List to summarize the scope.
  3. Add design and programming tasks to each scope as To-Do Items. For example, “Start Autopay” has one task for design the UI and another task for wiring it to the existing recurring billing API. They can use the discussion thread on each To-Do Item to post updates or ask each other questions.
  4. Repeat as the team discovers new scopes and tasks.
Screenshot of to-do lists in Basecamp that correspond to scopes

To-Do Lists for each scope with designer and programmer tasks under each. Note: these are just the tasks discovered so far.

Track scopes on the Hill Chart

  1. Navigate to the To-Do List page for each scope and click the options menu (•••) in the upper right. Click “Track this on the Hill Chart.” That will display a Hill Chart at the top of the overall To-Dos section of the Project, with a dot corresponding to that scope (To-Do List).
  2. Repeat for each scope (To-Do List).
  3. Click “Update” on the Hill Chart and drag the dots to show progress from “unknown” to “known” to “done.” Use the annotation feature to add commentary when necessary.
  4. To see the history of updates to the Hill Chart, click the timestamp above the Hill Chart where it says “last update.”
Screenshot of the detail page in Basecamp for a single to-do list. The options menu is revealed on the upper right and the option to Track this on the Hill Chart is highlighted.

Tracking a scope (To-Do List) on the Hill Chart via the options menu on the To-Do List’s page

Screenshot of the To-Dos section of the Basecamp project after the hill chart is enabled for all three lists. Each list appears as a dot at the bottom left of the chart.

After enabling the Hill Chart on each To-Do List, a dot appears for each scope

Screenshot of updating the hill chart. A highlighted message instructs the user to drag the dots. Below a textarea provides space to annotate the update.

Drag the dots to update the Hill Chart

Screenshot of the hill updated with the dots moved further up the left side to different degrees.

The updated Hill Chart appears at the top of the To-Dos page

Screenshot of the history view of the hill chart, showing two different snapshots over time with the scopes at different positions.

Clicking the timestamp at the top of the Hill Chart shows a history of updates. The most recent update is at the top.

Other tools make it hard to see everything about the project in one place. Basecamp combines chat, messages, to-dos, and documents in one interface that’s powerful enough for technical people and friendly enough for everyone else to use. Programmers, designers, QA and managers feel equally at home and can work together seamlessly on projects. Try Basecamp free for 30 days.

We built Basecamp to execute the techniques in this book. It puts all our project communication, task management, and documentation in one place where designers and programmers work seamlessly together. See How to Implement the Shape Up Method in Basecamp.