New book from Basecamp: Shape Up

Aug 05, 2019 | Posted by Cristina in Articles

Basecamp is one of my favorite companies in the whole wide world in terms of work culture and what they stand up for.

It started in 1999, as a web design firm that was called 37signals back then. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founders , were looking for a simple project management tool for their clients and, because they couldn’t find one fit for their needs, they decided to build it themselves. That’s how Basecamp was born in 2004, as a simple project management app.

10 years later, they decided to focus solely on it, as it was now their most popular product, and changed the name of their company from 37signals to Basecamp. In those 10 years, 15 million people have worked on a project using Basecamp! They’ve grown from 4 people to a team of ~50 spread across the world (they’re mostly remote) and they’re now helping hundreds of thousands of companies improve their work.

In 2006, they self-published a guide called “Getting Real“, where they talked about how they work and how product development happened at Basecamp – it was a new way of working for product people, designers and developers.

Jason and DHH have released several other books since then, such as “Rework“, “Remote” and “It Doesn’t have to be Crazy at Work“, all focused on running a business, management, and work culture.

A few weeks ago, Basecamp released the follow-up to their first book. “Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters“, authored by Ryan Singer (who’s in charge of strategy), is a free web-based book that explains in details how they work at Basecamp, how their small team gets things done fast and at a high level of quality. They’ve already talked a lot on the subject in various blog posts, tweets, interviews or at public events, but they never put it all into one place for everyone to see – not until now.

Basecamp doesn’t agile, scrum, design sprints or stick post-it notes on their walls. Their team members don’t do daily stand ups, track individual hours or question how their days are spent. They work in six-week cycles and have an entirely different approach, one that they shaped, tested and polished throughout 15 years of activity.

Shape Up is split into three parts:

1. Shaping: that’s where they talk about the steps involved in any pre-work they do on their projects, before they consider them ready to be scheduled (from keeping the design at the right level of abstraction, to writing a pitch, and so on).

2. Betting: how they choose from those pitched projects and decide what to work on – six weeks at a time.

3. Building: the expectations placed on teams, special practices used to decide out what to do next, how to integrate design and programming, how and what to track, how to ship a project on time, and so on.

Who’s it for: anyone involved in product development, no matter the title – you can be a founder or CTO, developer or designer. Think of this book as a toolbox – take and apply whatever makes sense to you, mix with your values and shape your own process.

You can read Shape Up for free here.

If you already read it and want to go deeper into details, here are two podcast episodes from Basecamp team:
Shape Up with Ryan Singer
– Shape Up Roundtable

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