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#393 Shaped Up

Friday Ship #393 | April 19th, 2024

Some fired pottery as a metaphor for finished goods

This week we concluded our first Shape Up cycle.

Back in Friday Ship #386, we shared how we were transitioning from a fairly typical Agile sprint cadence of every 2 weeks to 6-week development cycles inspired by Shape Up. We had a few goals:

  • Lowering overhead: spending more calendar time on design and development and less on meetings
  • Decoupling design from implementation: now its explicit that designs must be raised to a level of fidelity that they are ready for implementation, and do the job of testing our riskiest assumptions
  • Betting Instead of Planning: writing short product briefs that can be prioritized as goals for a cycle, and excluding all else (except unavoidable interruptions) from the Shape Up implementation cycle

Next week will start our first 2 week “Cool Down” period where the development team officially has unstructured time to hack on passion projects, follow their passions, and develop or short product briefs to be bet on for the next cycle. Also in the first week of “Cool Down” we’ll hold a retrospective reflecting on the completion of our first Shape Up cycle.

Obviously, it’s a bit too early to conclude how things have gone but already from the perspective of this Product Manager there are a few things I like and want to keep doing and a few things I think could stand to change.

Things I like about Shape Up:

  • There is definitely lower overhead and more uninterrupted time for work
  • Oddly, I’ve also noticed much higher degrees of collaboration between team members – people seem to be pairing up more not less
  • Urgency seems to be just as high, if not higher, even though the cycle time was longer
  • Design has been able to integrate more cycles of feedback, with wider participation from the company than usual yielding high quality work

Things that could use improvement:

  • Work we didn’t bet on: during a Shape Up cycle, stuff happens. While big, non-urgent bugs or refactoring can be bet on…things that contend to interrupt the cycle such as production failures or customer support issues still pop up. How should we handle these things? When do we decide this work should take precedence over what we’re working on?

I’m especially curious to hear more reflections that my own from the team. You’d better bet I’ll share our learnings in a future Friday Ship. Follow along to learn what we learn…


Metrics for Parabol Friday Ship #393

Metrics were mixed this week. On the plus side, the number of meetings ran hit a six-week high. We’re keeping an eye on new account and MAU growth.

This week we…

…reviewed upcoming designs for a leadership reporting product.

tested AI infrastructure relating to the above leadership reporting product.

…began rebuilding our company business model. Over nearly 9 years, we’ve built 3 different ways of modeling our business. Our latest model is starting to show its age (given all we’ve learned) and so we’ve begin to reimplement it. This will likely be a whole other topic for a future Friday Ship!

Next week we’ll

…hold a board meeting for the first quarter of 2024.

Have feedback? See something that you like or something you think could be better? Please write to us.

Jordan Husney

Jordan Husney

Jordan leads Parabol’s business development strategy and engineering practice. He was previously a Director at Undercurrent, where he advised C-Suite teams of Fortune 100 organizations on the future of work. Jordan has an engineering background, holding several patents in distributed systems and wireless technology. Jordan lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

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