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What Is the Agile Crystal Methodology?

You know that every project is different — and a lot of those differences hinge not only on the project itself, but the team. Who’s working on the project? How big is the team? 

To deliver a successful project, you need to have as much (if not more) emphasis on the people as you do on the processes. That is at the heart of the Crystal Agile methodology.

Understanding the Crystal methodology?

The Crystal Agile methodology is one of many Agile process models. You’ve likely heard of some of the core process models or methodologies like Scrum, Lean, and Kanban, and Crystal is another one. 

Crystal can be a little challenging to wrap your arms around as it’s actually a collection of different methodologies and various people have different interpretations. Additionally, it’s meant to provide guidance — but not necessarily a rigid structure or strict rules. 

The most important emphasis of Crystal is actually the first point of the Agile Manifesto: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. 

What exactly does that mean? Crystal recognizes that each project is unique and team performance hinges on a number of different factors, primarily: 

  • Team size: How many team members are working on the project?
  • Criticality: How imperative are the results of the project? Is it life or death?
  • Priority: Where does the project rank? Is it a higher priority than other work?

In Agile, Crystal gives teams the flexibility to adapt their work to fit these factors, as opposed to sticking with strict and uncompromising rules and methodologies.

What is the history of the Crystal Agile framework?

Crystal Agile methodology was developed by Alistair Cockburn, who was tasked with studying software development for IBM in 1991. He later documented the methodology in his book, “Crystal Clear: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams.”  

What are the Agile Crystal methods?

Cockburn’s book mentions small teams in the title — does that mean that Crystal isn’t a fit for larger project teams? Not exactly. 

Remember, Crystal methodology is actually a grouping of different methods and it always takes team size into account. Because of that, Crystal can be further broken down into color groups that hinge on the size of the team and the complexity or size of the project.

Think about it this way: small teams can move quickly and have more straightforward collaborations. But, as the team size grows, that often means the complexity of the project does too. That’s what the different Crystal methods represent.


You’ll hear Crystal Clear Agile methodology referenced a lot, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for every team or project. Realistically, it’s best suited for small teams. Each of the above Crystal methods has a unique framework and guidelines about everything from team communication to releases to how teams are split up. 

But again, those are recommendations and not necessarily rigid rules. That’s the benefit of

Crystal methodology: it’s flexible and the work can (and should) be adjusted based on the size of the team and the type of the project. 

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