XTC discusses Basecamp's Shape-Up

22 Feb 2020

Last week I facilitated a session at XTC, where we discussed the new product development framework from Basecamp, Shape Up, led by Thomas Ankorn.

It was a really interesting discussion with people exploring the ideas openly, guided by questions posed by Thomas to get the conversation started.

I've summarised the points that came up in the discussion, reconstructed from memory and the collected post-its of scribbles at the end of the evening.

1. What problems does this solve?

We started by looking at the positives of the framework, trying to identify strengths that would help mitigate problems we have encountered in our own teams.

2. What do people see as red flags?

As is slightly inevitable in a group discussion of this kind, "red flags" was slightly watered down to "generic problems" when discussed around the table.

3. Is there anything you'll take away and try?

Many people agreed at this stage that they would like to apply some of the specific techniques proposed as part of the framework. Nobody was ready yet to take the plunge and try to implement the full methodology, but that was probably unlikely as an outcome of a single group discussion!

The common elements that people mentioned they would like to try out in their workplaces were:

This was a really fun discussion to be a part of. Challenging the group to re-examine and justify their working practices threw up plenty of common issues working with the Agile methodology, and discussing how Shape Up works was a great lens to prompt ideas about how to improve our processes.

It's always going to be easier to pick holes in a new set of processes, especially when Agile is so widely used, but it was clear from the discussion that there were definitely ideas that people really liked in Shape Up. I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for whether it is picked up more widely, and whether the issues we identified at XTC are evident when the methodology is used in practice.

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