As a part of the “Different Scaled Agile Frameworks Series, this article provides an overview of Crystal Methods
Crystal methods is a family of methods to deliver projects. It was developed by Alistair Cockburn. These methods mainly focused on people and their interaction and were established in 1990 when IM asked Alister to create a way of an object-oriented project.
Crystal focuses on the realization that each project has unique characteristics. Hence, the policies and practices must be custom-tailored to accommodate these features. That’s why crystal has defined Crystal Families to make this customization easier
The basis of the Crystal Method is on two critical assumptions:
- First, the team can make itself more efficient by streamlining their work and the project.
- Second, every project is different from others and requires some specific methods and strategies
Properties of Crystal Methods
- Frequent delivery – it allows you to frequently deliver working, tested code to real users. In this way, you don’t have to face the fact that you have invested your energy and time into the product that nobody wants to buy.
- Reflective improvement – no matter how bad or good the product is, there are always areas where the product can be improved. Also, there are always new techniques and methods your team can implement to improve their future practices
- Osmotic communication – with the team who works co-located, information flows around the team. That allows them to pick up valuable information without even being directly involved in the discussion of a certain matter. This gradual absorption of ideas is called osmotic communication. Cockburn believes that this kind of work atmosphere can operate with very little structure.
- Personal Safety – the only way to build a healthy working atmosphere and a true team culture is by practicing open and honest communication. Team members should be able to speak without fear, no matter whether they are presenting a new idea or talking about a potential problem.
- Focus – each team member knows exactly what to work on which enables them to focus their attention and avoid switching from one task to another. Also, this boosts team communication and helps the team prioritize and work towards the same goals.
- Easy access to expert users – Crystal enables your team to maintain communication and get regular feedback from real users.
- A technical environment with automated tests, configuration management, and frequent integration – very specific tools for software teams where the emphasis is on continuous integration so that the errors could be caught within minutes.
Crystal Families by Colour
Alistair noticed that small teams were able to develop and deliver projects without a lot of paperwork or reports. Whereas the larger teams, operating on large-scale projects, required a lot of documentation, regular updates and a lot of contact.
So basically, it all depends on the project size and how complicated it will be. He therefore developed the Crystal form, which had different strategies for particular project sizes.
The suitability of the Crystal approach is based on dimensions team size and criticality
They are usually defined by colors, depending on the number of people engaged in the project:
- Crystal Clear – for teams of 1-6 people
- Crystal Yellow – Teams of 7-20 people
- Crystal Orange – Teams of 21 to 40 people
- Crystal Red – Teams of 40-80 people
- Crystal Maroon – Teams of 80-200 people
- Crystal Diamond and Crystal Sapphire – Very large size
Roles and Responsibilities
The basic distinction between Crystal Clear and other Crystal approaches is the fact that only one team in the Crystal-Clear project exists. Whilst the remaining of the Crystal methods have various players to follow through.
Crystal methods have several positions, including Executive Sponsor, Executive, Lead Designer, Programmer, Ambassador User, and Tester. These are the leading or Real Roles.
There are several other sub-roles also called Virtual roles, such as Project Coordinator, Business Expert, Technical Writer, and Business Tester.
Advantages of Crystal Methods
- Allows teams to have autonomy and to operate the way they deem most effective
- Encourages direct team communication, honesty and accountability, and reduces overhead management
- The adaptive approach helps teams to better react to changing requirements.
Points to Ponder
- Lack of pre-defined plans may lead to confusion and loss of focus.
- Lack of structure may slow down inexperienced teams.
- Not clear on how a remote team can share knowledge informally.