Research, Shaping, Making
Posted on May 25th, 2021

This is a post about a lifecycle of a generic project and how different areas of expertise become relevant on each phase. The model below will help you allocate roles within your team in the best way considering everyone's strengths.

If we generalise, the point of any project is delivering some kind of a change. From this perspective we will split a project into three phases: Research, Shaping and Making.

Three phases

  • Phase 1- 🔍 Research. The main goal here is discovering, surfacing and understanding problems in the current state of the things. Outcome of this phase is the reason for the change.
  • Phase 2- 📐 Shaping. This is when a solution is designed. The result of this phase is a definition of the change.
  • Phase 3- ⚒ Making. Finally, during this phase the team delivers an implementation of the change.

In other words, in JTBD terminology we start with thinking about Demand side and as solution emerges we move towards working on the Supply side. In reality this transition is not strict and our phases intersect.

Role types

Now, let's look into different types of roles that we end up in this model for team members with expertise in one or more phases:

  • Researchers: constantly improve their domain understanding, search for opportunities to deliver value and interview external parties to explore new challenges
  • Researcher-Shapers: great understanding of the domain and also ability to prioritise problems and come up with solutions for them
  • Shaper-Makers: come up with the most optimal solutions given a problem and a context, ability to make calculated trade-offs and de-risk the upcoming implementation work
  • Makers: come up with ways to implement the solution given available resources, knowledge of the technologies and methodologies used in their field
  • Researcher-Shaper-Makers: combining all three areas of expertise, they usually exist only in a small and early-stage team
  • Researcher-Makers: this is a rare intersection, can be the case if the Making team is consuming the result of their work (for example a team of engineers working on tools for development)

Team members can play various roles given their expertise. It is important to have dedicated owners for the transitions from one phase to another. The best owners tend to be the roles in the corresponding intersections: Researcher-Shapers and Shaper-Makers.

Working in cycles

Given a certain split of roles in most cases it is possible to organise work in fixed length cycles, so that for each team work is shifted according to the phase they are focused on:

And finally - handover between phases is vital for the success of the project overall. It should be done through an established process for Project Briefs (Research to Shaping) and Implementation Reviews (Shaping to Making).

Do you have a question on this or maybe a different opinion?
Send me a private message
Do you want to know about new posts?
Follow me to receive updates
Latest publications
Jul 28th, 2021Growth by doingJun 19th, 2021The Systems LensMay 25th, 2021Research, Shaping, MakingFeb 25th, 2021Running a remote teamFeb 12th, 2021Low risk integrationsJan 19th, 2021Your very own third party serviceJan 8th, 2021The three types of work