Heads up! This page uses features your browser doesn't support. Try a modern browser like Firefox or Chrome for the best experience.

Six week cycles, two tracks

Diagram depicting the two tracks and what happens at the same time. A horizontal dotted line marks the boundary between the two tracks. The upper track is labeled: Out of cycle and the lower track is labled: In cycle. The tracks are sliced vertically by blocks of time: a six week block followed by a two week block, then another six week block and so on. Arrows point from a box marked Shape in the six week block on the out-of-cycle track over to a Bet box in the two-week block. An arrow from the Bet box descends down to the lower track and points to a Build box in the following six week block. Between build blocks, the two-week gap is labeled: Cool down.

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

A diagram depicting how the work transforms through four phases. First the work is like a cloud with a question mark in it. It's labled: Raw idea or request. Then the work acquires a defined outline with an empty interior. It is labeled: Shaped pitch. A vertical dotted line separates the next phase, and an arrow curling over the dotted line is labeled: Betting. Then the defined outline gets some dotted line boundaries inside to indicate scopes. One of them is checked off. Finally the interior is fully divided by scopes with many of them complete.

Steps to perform

A diagram summarizing all the steps that happen in the method. It is a series of five horizontal boxes. First, the Shape box points to the Bet box. A vertically dotted line to the right of the Bet box indicates the transition from out of cycle to in cycle. The Bet box points over the line to the Scope box. Scope points to a box for Build Vertically. Last, Build Vertically points to Show Progress. Show Progress loops back to Build Vertically and also loops further back to Scope. Below each box the specific activites are listed. Under Shape: Set Appetite, Narrow problem, outline solution, remove rabbit holes, write pitch. Under Bet: Choose pitch, commit resources. Under Scope: Get oriented, Discover tasks, Map scopes, Track with lists. Under Build Vertically: Design affordances, Wire with code, Discover tasks, Get One Scope Done. Under Show Progress: Mark uphill progress, Mark downhill progress.
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.