Created by
Nikos Vasileiou

Last update
June 15, 2021

Mission shaping

Shape a Mission before assigning it to a Hero Squad. A prep-work process based on Basecamp's Shape Up framework.


Mission shaping is based on Basecamp's Shape Up framework.

Agile Squads can benefit from important pre-work that can happen in parallel with active Missions, on a separate track where few people, usually a Product Manager and a Senior Engineer, work together behind the scenes trying to alleviate ambiguity and put more meat to the bone around an idea, a customer request or an upcoming project.

The outcome of shaping is either a Mission worth investing on, or a discarded project that stays off the table. The extra effort required to shape a Mission can save tons of time from Hero Squads, lead to shorter cycle times and better decision making from the Product Squad.

The process of shaping is described in detail in the book, however here are some key highlights worth noting:

Set boundaries

Boundaries start by setting the appetite for a project. How much time do we feel this project is worth our efforts? How can we narrow down the scope of the project to fit the appetite? What stays on the list and what is out?

Rough out the elements

People shaping a project, the shapers, brainstorm towards a solution, which is not too abstract and not too concrete, so that the development team can have the room to figure out the best solution to the project.

Shapers can use simple sketches and rough out a brief solution on the UI or describe flows. Having both Product and Engineering people in the shaping process is critical so that feasibility on the solution can be evaluated and appetite is matched.

Address risks and rabbit holes

Avoid suprises by addressing risks and identifying rabbit holes that could jeopardise the feasibility, the scope and the effort of the project early on.

Write the pitch

This is the last phase of the shaping process, where a document is created to pitch the project. Key elements of the pitching document are:

  1. Problem: Description of the problem, the idea, the use case
  2. Appetite: How much time we want to spend and the constrains of the solution
  3. Solution: Core elements of the solution presentable in a form simple to understand
  4. Rabbit holes: Details worth calling out to avoid problems
  5. No-gos: Items excluded from the concept

More at Shape Up book.