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The amount of time we want to spend on a project, as opposed to an estimate.
What customers are doing without the thing we’re currently building.
The decision to commit a team to a project for one cycle with no interruptions and an expectation to finish.
Betting table
A meeting during cool-down when stakeholders decide which pitches to bet on in the next cycle.
Big batch
One project that occupies a team for a whole cycle and ships at the end.
A UI concept that defines affordances and their connections without visual styling.
Circuit breaker
A risk management technique: Cancel projects that don’t ship in one cycle by default instead of extending them by default.
Cleanup mode
The last phase of building a new product, where we don’t shape or bet on any particular projects but instead allocate unstructured time to fix whatever is needed before launch.
A two-week break between cycles to do ad-hoc tasks, fix bugs, and hold a betting table.
A six week period of time where teams work uninterruptedly on shaped projects.
Improve the odds of shipping within one cycle by shaping and removing rabbit holes.
Discovered tasks
Tasks the team discovers they need to do after they start getting involved in the real work.
The phase of a task, scope or project where all unknowns are solved and only execution is left.
Fat marker sketch
A sketch of a UI concept at very low fidelity drawn with a thick line.
Hill chart
A diagram showing the status of work on a spectrum from unknown to known to done.
A scope of work where the back-end work is much more complex than the UI or vice versa.
Imagined tasks
Work the teams decide they need to do after just thinking about the project. See discovered tasks.
Layer cake
A scope of work you can estimate by looking at the surface area of the UI.
Level of abstraction
The amount of detail we leave in or out when describing a problem or solution.
Tasks that must be completed for a scope to be considered done.
Task left for the end of the cycle. If there isn’t time to do them, they get cut. Marked with a '~' at the beginning.
A document that presents a shaped project idea for consideration at the betting table.
Production mode
A phase of building a new product where the core architecture is settled and we apply the standard Shape Up process.
Rabbit hole
Part of a project that is too unknown, complex, or open-ended to bet on.
R&D mode
A phase of building a new product where a senior team spikes the core features to define the core architecture.
Raw ideas
Requests or feature ideas that are expressed in words and haven’t been shaped.
Parts of a project that can be built, integrated, and finished independently of the rest of the project.
Scope hammering
Forcefully questioning a design, implementation, or use case to cut scope and finish inside the fixed time box.
Make an abstract project idea more concrete by defining key elements of the solution before betting on it.
Six weeks
The length of our cycles. Six weeks is long enough to finish something meaningful and short enough to feel the deadline from the beginning.
Small batch
A set of 1-2 week projects that a single team ships by the end of a six week cycle.
Time horizon
The longest period of time where we can feel a deadline pushing on us from the beginning. Six weeks.
The phase of a task, scope or project where there are still unkowns or unsolved problems. See downhill.
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.