Real Developers Ship … So Shape Up?

As I wander the corridors of various organisations, the biggest change over the last few years is the proliferation of post it notes.  The arrival of agile (I’ve skipped the obligatory quote marks) has meant, for all too many, an endless purgatory of discovery and occasional alpha, but more likely, just more discovery.  The incentive to ship, to put something live, seems to have gone away.  Not for everyone, of course, but for a disquietingly large proportion of the organisations I see.

I read that £1 spent on R&D has had an ever decreasing output over the last decade – that is, to get what you used to get for £1, you now need to spend £1.50 or £2 (making all of those comparisons of R&D spend over time rather pointless – the input is never as important as the output).

It feels the same in Public Sector software development.  We have lots more projects and lots more activity, but fewer teams shipping.  The money in is doubtless rising, the productive consequences, unless measured in post it notes, are falling.

Some might say that good things have resulted – we are focused, rightly, on user needs, and of figuring out what the right answer is.  Others will say that we aren’t shipping anything and so, despite all the analysis, we are, in fact, in paralysis.  I tend to the latter view – we have learned important new skills, but we aren’t using them to make real change happen for the user needs we are discovering.

I was intrigued, then, to read about Shape Up.  The world doesn’t need another methodology, and this isn’t one.  Instead, this is a guide to shipping.

Six week cycles, shape the work before giving it to the team, give that team full responsibility, look for the hard problems to solve first, and ship on time.

They’re candid that this is a way to help you avoid shipping late, not to avoid shipping the wrong thing – that’s a different process.

No methodology delivers your project, or product, for you, but having a structure and framework that helps you organise your work will undoubtedly help you deliver.  Just as shortening the timeframe, to 6 week cycles in this case, will focus you on getting something done on a regular cadence.

Take a look at Shape Up, if only for a new way of thinking about how your own teams are shipping.  Assuming they’re actually shipping.

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