Scaling with Scrum and Shape Up

I was recently involved in a scaling exercise where the current setup of two experienced teams were to evolve into three. At the same time the goal was to increase autonomy and empower the development teams.

Earlier exercises involved frameworks such as SAFe, Nexus and LeSS. None of the frameworks proved to be the right answer for the specific organisation and instead we tried to seek inspiration elsewhere. The main framework centered around Scrum but adding inputs from Shape Up promoted by Basecamp in 2019.

Shaper team

What we introduced at the client was a shaper team. The shaper team worked with a specific epic that needed to be decomposed into features to be solved with one of the teams – Bracketeers. This was a new way of working.

Earlier the product owner would work closely with people out side the team until user stories could be generated and prepared for the development team.

The product owner, Anna, facilitates the shaping task. Anna presents the overall epic needs in a refinement session with Bracketeers. During the refinement sessions the Bracketeers agrees that Brian, Christian and Denice are the right team members to help Anna with the shaping. Anna, Brian, Christian and Denice combines interface ideas and technical possibilities with business priorities. They start shaping the epic into features ready to pitch to business. The pitch is used to evaluate the business case before development. Following the pitch Anna, Brian, Christian and Denice do a refinement kick-off with Bracketeers to on-board them.

Brian, Christian and Denice are able to convey knowledge generated during shaping to the Bracketeers. From here Bracketeers work using the normal Scrum proces in the team with refinement, sprint planning, daily scrum, etc. Anna, Brian, Christian, Denice and the shaper team meet up frequently to make sure that everyone feels involved in the proces.

Shape Up

Basecamp’s Shape Up focuses on allowing fast decisions and empowering development teams to focus. An as-is visualisation of the way the teams were working demonstrated some very specific and detailed product backlog items being prioritized by the product owner. We wanted to elevate this using principles of shaping from Shape Up:

“When we shape the work, we need to do it at the right level of abstraction: not too vague and not too concrete. Product managers often err on one of these two extremes.”

Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters

The solution we decided to have was a shaper team that shapes the work in collaboration with the connected development teams. To enable this we defined the purpose of the shaper team:

  • Secure a pipeline of future work
  • Make sure that refinement happens
  • Assert that business and development teams can work together
  • Secure a cross team view of development

Work facilitated by the shaper team:

  • Early shaping
  • Review of user stories with the development team

Shaper team is responsible for driving shaping and involving development teams while the development teams drives the following development and involves shaper team as needed.

If you want to learn more about Basecamp’s Shape Up you can find it here:

2 Comments on "Scaling with Scrum and Shape Up"

  1. Mathias Schütte | July 29, 2020 at 4:53 pm | Reply

    Interesting approach for combining some of the concepts from Shape Up with Scrum in a scaled set-up.
    Do you extend or change the Shaper team if an epic in the future pipeline (not yet decomposed and started working on) requires input from different people in the team/Bracketeers?

    • Yes. The shaper team consist of a “core group” that is expected to be stable over time while others will join briefly for future epics.

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