Crystal Clear: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams

Alistair Cockburn  
Total pages
October 2004
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Crystal Clear: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams
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This book introduces Crystal Clear, a better lightweight methodology for

building software. It describes the roles, teams, values, intentions, habits,

activities, policies and work products of a small software development team for

whom time-to-market and development costs are critical considerations.

Alistair Cockburn is one of the founders of the Agile software development

movement. He spells out proven best practices based on his extensive

experience helping organizations build software quickly and with less cost. The

author understands that small teams cannot be burdened by 'process-heavy'

software methodologies. By advocating that developers stay close together and

remain in steady, good-will communication with customers and users, this

book teaches the reader how to develop software that not only does what it is

supposed to do, but also gets completed on time and within budget.


Introducing Crystal Clear, a new agile method proven to increase worker productivity while helping organizations deliver better software.

° More nuggets of wisdom from software engineering guru and best-selling author Alistair Cockburn

° Helps organizations eliminate the bureaucracy from software development by increasing emphasis on programmer input and job satisfaction

° Product launch at OOPSLA 2004 conference during October in Vancouver, BC

Table of Contents

  • Preface.
  • 1. Explained (View from the Outside)
  • 2. Applied (The Seven Properties)
  • 3. In Practice (Strategies and Techniques)
  • 4. Explored (The Process)
  • 5. Examined (The Work Products)
  • 6. Misunderstood (Common Mistakes)
  • 7. Questioned (Frequently Asked)
  • 8. Tested (A Case Study)
  • 9. Distilled (The Short Version).
  • References.
  • Index.

Back Cover

'The best thinking in the agile development community brought to street-level in the form of implementable strategy and tactics. Essential reading for anyone who shares the passion for creating quality software.'

—Eric Olafson, CEO Tomax

'Crystal Clear is beyond agile. This book leads you from software process hell to successful software development by practical examples and useful samples.'

—Basaki Satoshi, Schlumberger

'A very powerful message, delivered in a variety of ways to touch the motivation and understanding of many points of view.'

—Laurie Williams, Assistant Professor, North Carolina State University

'A broad, rich understanding of small-team software development based on observations of what actually works.'

—John Rusk

'A superb synthesis of underlying principles and a clear description of strategies and techniques.'

—Géry Derbier, Project Manager, Solistic

'Alistair Cockburn shows how small teams can be highly effective at developing fit-for-purpose software by following a few basic software development practices and by creating proper team dynamics. These small teams can be much more effective and predictable than much larger teams that follow overly bureaucratic and prescriptive development processes.'

Todd Little, Sr. Development Manager, Landmark Graphics

'I find Cockburn's writings on agile methods enlightening: He describes 'how to do,' of course, but also how to tell whether you're doing it right, to reach into the feeling of the project. This particular book's value is that actual project experiences leading to and confirming the principles and practices are so...well...clearly presented.'

Scott Duncan, ASQ Software Division Standards Chair and representative to the US SC7 TAG and IEEE S2ESC Executive Committee and Management Board and Chair of IEEE Working Group 1648 on agile methods

'Crystal Clear identifies principles that work not only for software development, but also for any results-centric activities. Dr. Cockburn follows these principles with concrete, practical examples of how to apply the principles to real situations and roles and to resolve real issues.'

Niel Nickolaisen, COO, Deseret Book

'All the successful projects I've been involved with or have observed over the past 19 or so years have had many of the same characteristics as described in Crystal Clear (even the big projects). And many of the failed projects failed because they missed something—such as expert end-user involvement or accessibility throughout the project. The final story was a great read. Here was a project that in my opinion was an overwhelming success—high productivity, high quality, delivery, happy customer, and the fact that the team would do it again. The differing styles in each chapter kept it interesting. I started reading it and couldn't put it down, and by the end, I just had to say 'Wow!''

Ron Holliday, Director, Fidelity Management Research

Carefully researched over ten years and eagerly anticipated by the agile community, Crystal Clear: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams is a lucid and practical introduction to running a successful agile project in your organization. Each chapter illuminates a different important aspect of orchestrating agile projects.

Highlights include

  • Attention to the essential human and communication aspects of successful projects
  • Case studies, examples, principles, strategies, techniques, and guiding properties
  • Samples of work products from real-world projects instead of blank templates and toy problems
  • Top strategies used by software teams that excel in delivering quality code in a timely fashion
  • Detailed introduction to emerging best-practice techniques, such as Blitz Planning, Project 360º, and the essential Reflection Workshop
  • Question-and-answer with the author about how he arrived at these recommendations, including where they fit with CMMI, ISO, RUP, XP, and other methodologies
  • A detailed case study, including an ISO auditor's analysis of the project

Perhaps the most important contribution this book offers is the Seven Properties of Successful Projects. The author has studied successful agile projects and identified common traits they share. These properties lead your project to success; conversely, their absence endangers your project.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.


Alistair Cockburn is a renowned software expert and accomplished instructor. He carefully separates advice to experts from advice to newcomers. Newcomers to agile development will find a step-by-step introduction to selected agile techniques previously not described elsewhere. Experts will see new strategies and techniques to try, as well as the contextual information they need for advanced decision-making.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.