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Crystal Clear: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams [Paperback]

Alistair Cockburn
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

19 Oct 2004 Agile Software Development

This book introduces Crystal Clear, a better lightweight methodology forbuilding software. It describes the roles, teams, values, intentions, habits,activities, policies and work products of a small software development team forwhom time-to-market and development costs are critical considerations.Alistair Cockburn is one of the founders of the Agile software developmentmovement. He spells out proven best practices based on his extensiveexperience helping organizations build software quickly and with less cost. Theauthor understands that small teams cannot be burdened by "process-heavy"software methodologies. By advocating that developers stay close together andremain in steady, good-will communication with customers and users, thisbook teaches the reader how to develop software that not only does what it issupposed to do, but also gets completed on time and within budget.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Addison Wesley; 1 edition (19 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201699478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201699470
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 445,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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From the 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.

About the Author

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.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical Excellence 14 July 2005
Format:Paperback
An excellent description of how to make headway with development teams. This offering really puts Agile into perspective with lots of practical examples. What ever state your developement team is in there should be advice in this book that will help you move forward.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best single book in the Agile canon 12 Nov 2004
By Michael K. Spayd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Alistair has always been an interesting thinker, one worth reading for the clarity of his thought and the insights he brings from his very open minded observation and talking with development teams. With his new book, Crystal Clear, however, Alistair has become a really good writer. In fact, I would say he has written the single best book in the collection of writings on Agile methodologies.

If you want the most comprehensive overview of Agile, you still must read Highsmith's Agile Software Development Ecosystems. If you want the most poetic, read Kent's White Book. For amazingly clear and simple writing and thinking, Poppendieck. But if you want a really really useful book on how to actually do agile, and you don't have that much time to invest, get Alistair's book.

One of the things I really like is the variety of different writing styles from chapter to chapter: from the email "love letters" written to Crystal (Alistair's methodology muse), to the simple exposition of seven properties underlying agile, to the clearly illustrated strategies and techniques, to work product samples, and to the final one page chapter giving an expert (level 3) view of the whole methodology. His writing is constantly engaging, inventive, conversational and even fun.

While Alistair writes about one methodology (and only one of his Crystal family of methodologies), the book is still universal. It covers the basic things that few agile teams would disagree with. Even if you work in a large, complex environment, this is the place to start.

-May your travels be light and the green bar always on your forward horizon. --Michael
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A realistic agile methodology... 3 Jan 2006
By Thomas Duff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
While I like the general concepts behind agile development methodologies, sometimes they seem to be focused on speed with a disregard for any documentation. Alistair Cockburn has an agile methodology that appears more palatable in today's environments... Crystal Clear : A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams.

Contents: Explained (View from the Outside); Applied (The Seven Properties); In Practice (Strategies and Techniques); Explored (The Process); Examined (The Work Products); Misunderstood (Common Mistakes); Questioned (Frequently Asked); Tested (A Case Study); Distilled (The Short Version); References; Index

The tendency to want to compare Crystal Clear (CC) to XP is something that can't be ignored. In fact, Cockburn addresses this in the Questioned section. He sums it up by saying that XP is stricter in several ways and more loose in a few. XP wants shorter iterations, CC can be longer. XP calls for pair programming, CC permits it. XP requires a customer to be an active member of the team, CC wants easy access to one. XP requires no documentation, CC does. It's probably that last point that makes CC an easier sell in a business environment. Some methodologies are documentation-heavy (like RUP) and some are documentation-absent (like XP). CC strikes a balance between documenting what needs to be known and remembered by the group, without having multiple binders of paper as a "product" to explain every last iota of code. While XP is the methodology that has all the mindshare these days, I think I feel more comfortable as a developer using something like CC.

If you're looking to slim down your development methodology or add some structure to a seemingly ad-hoc XP methodology, this book might be what you're looking for...
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it, no matter what methodology you're using 5 Nov 2004
By Lisa Crispin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It was through Alistair Cockburn's earlier writings that I 'got it' that good people, not methodologies and tools, deliver successful projects. Although Crystal Clear is meant only for small teams (there's a Crystal color for every size team), the properties, practices, principles, examples and techniques in this book would benefit any software development team.

The subtitle begins "A Human-Powered Methodology...", and that's the key to this book. Cockburn understands how to allow people to do their best work. The book is so well-organized and well-written, even readers new to agile development will have no trouble understanding how and why Crystal Clear works, and how to implement it.

I'm part of a Scrum/XP team, but I took away many helpful and practical ideas from this book. No matter what methodology you use - even if you work in a traditional waterfall environment - you will find much you can use here.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best since XP - maybe even better... 12 Dec 2004
By Ole Jepsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Despite the fact that a very large number of books about agile methodologies have come out since the beginning af agile software development in 2001 - this Chrystal Clear is a major breakthrough:

In this book Cockburn takes the reader by the hand, shares his deep insight in people-centric software development and give precise instructions and advise on how to run sofware projects with communication and human values as the base. You learn a number of proporties, strategies and techniques. I find it hard to tell the difference between these. I think they are all best practices - but really usefull and very well proven best practices.

Unlike most other books on methodoligies Chrystal Clear explains itself in depth - and manages on the same time to communicate with the same "lightness" that should be performed in development projects. The lightness is especially present (and refreshing) in the section about the work products, which is the horror of all other methodologies I know... Cockburn learns us, that most work products makes the biggest difference in the project, if they are made on the walls on whiteboards or stickers - as opposed to the usual way where work products are made on computer screens and saved (or "hidden") on server disk drives...

Being a full blown methodology - with detailed instructions on how to run your project - I see Chrystal Clear as the first full blown leightweigh methodology since eXtreme Programming - and recommend the book highly to all project managers and everybody else who wants to succeed with their software development projects.

Ole Jepsen, Founder of the Danish Agile User Group
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book you can actually put to use 23 Feb 2005
By Tracy Bialik - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a practical book, plain and simple, geared toward people who want to cut through unnecessary development clutter and get their team running efficiently.

The wisdom collected between these pages draws from years of interviews with real teams, and it shows. Crystal Clear builds on a common, essential core shared by successful teams, and helps the reader adapt these to his or her own unique situation. The author has hit a sweet spot, providing some structure without the feeling of a straightjacket.

A strength of this book is that the explanation takes place in several different styles--each presenting insights from a different perspective and filling in the overall picture so you get a broad understanding of how this can apply to your team.

Through a series of hypothetical letters, the reader first shares the experience of learning how a successful team adapts lightweight practices to their own environment. From there, you'll learn the properties a team needs to reach the safety zone and beyond. Next is a set of specific strategies and techniques that some teams use to achieve those Crystal properties, followed by a detailed look at how a well tuned process should flow through time. Dozens of work products your team might consider are described (most of these are ultra-light cousins of products generated in heavyweight shops). Chapters targeting common mistakes, a FAQ, and a Case Study round things out. The book closes on a one page distillation of the whole process, with the wonderful tag line, "All the other pages in this book only expand on this page."
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