Mental model of Hill Charts

Hill charts are a simple way to see how a project is really going. They first appeared in Basecamp 3, but I’ve seen them used outside of Basecamp too. What I like most is how they signal where uncertainty exists. Lots of uncertainty early on is to be expected. Lots of uncertainty half way through is super risky.

When we decided to use hill charts I wanted to shortcut the philosophy of Shape Up into a quick reference. Inspired by the mental model of dental hygiene I wrote one for hill charts. With the help of my amazing colleagues we’ve adjusted it few times since then. Here we go:

Dots are scopes

Lifecycle of a scope

Splitting scopes

Figuring things out

At the top of the hill

Making things happen

Check daily

Update every 1-2 days

Be aware of curious smells

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