As you may know Agile software development is inspired by the principles of Lean Manufacturing which in turn is derived from the Toyota Production System (TPS). One Agile methodology, Lean Software Development even borrows the name Lean to make the connection explicit. Since the principles in Lean and TPS have much in common with how Japanese always have approached manufacturing and that TPS supposedly permeates the whole of Toyota, it comes as a real surprise that Toyota uses a waterfall process for software development!
Crystal Clear is the smallest of a series of methodologies for software development, all created by Alistair Cockburn. It is smallest in the sense of the project size it addresses (up to eight developers) and in the number of things it prescribes. Other Methodologies, deriving their names from the colors of crystal, are increasingly heavier. They all share the same “DNA” though, which is “expressed” differently with increasing project size and criticality, the latter meaning the higher cost in terms of money or at the extreme human life.
The book in itself has an interesting setup where each chapter addresses an aspect of Crystal Clear in a different format, tone and style. The purpose of this setup is to appeal to a large audience where each reader can find at least one chapter that conveys the essence of Crystal Clear to her clearly. The most peculiar chapter is probably the one where an ignorant Alistair queries a fictive Crystal character over a series of letters about the inner workings of a successful software development team; thus mimicking a Socratic dialogue. I am not sure this stunt works in practice, but at least true to the intent some chapters work better for me than others… All chapters are, however, still written in an easy and personal prose.