Six week cycles, two tracks
- Build teams work in six week cycles.
- Shaping happens on a track parallel to building. It produces potential projects that are six weeks long or shorter.
- The betting table is held in the two-week
cool-downbetween cycles. Unshaped work is considered too risky to bet on.
- Betting means a team is given six uninterrupted weeks to finish the shaped work.
- During cool-down, teams have no scheduled work. It’s slack time to deploy, debrief, fix bugs, and/or learn new tech.
Shaping work is qualitatively different from building. It’s unknown in advance which ideas will turn into bettable projects and which ones won’t. Some projects are shaped quickly, some take multiple cycles, and some never come together. What’s important is to always have some good options for the betting table before each cycle.
Phases of the work
- Work starts unshaped as raw requests and ideas. (Example: “Build a calendar.”)
- Work is shaped into a concept at the right level of abstraction: defined enough to bet on but with the details left for the team to work out.
- Betting turns the work into a scheduled project with a deadline and a team.
- The teams works within the outline of the shaped concept. They break the project into scopes that integrate front and back-end work. They finish one scope early in the cycle to validate the concept and gain momentum.
- Further into the cycle, the team has mapped scopes for the whole project and finished the most important ones first.
Steps to perform
- Projects start with shaping a potential solution to fit within constraints (like the
appetite, the amount of time stakeholders think the project is worth). Shaping is done by senior designers with input from senior technical and business people. Work at the shaping stage is concrete enough to evaluate but rough enough that the team has room to resolve the countless details.
- The output of shaping is a
pitch—a potential bet for the
betting table. Betting means committing a small cross-functional team for an uninterrupted period of time (six weeks) to build and ship the pitch.
- Builders break the work into
scopes—parts they can build and vertically integrate independently from other parts—and define their own tasks.
- As they build scopes end-to-end, they report progress in terms of whether the work is
uphill—still containing unknowns—or
downhill—solved and merely requiring further labor to finish.