Crystal Clear – A Book on Small Teams (pt. 2)

Crystal Clear: Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams - Book Cover

I recently started writing a book review on Crystal Clear: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams by Alistair Cockburn. Check out the first part of my review. I have read Chapter 1 entitled Explained (View from the Outside). It was a very interesting chapter that set Crystal Clear as the answerer to Alistair Cockburn. It made many aspects of the Crystal family clear in my mind. I enjoyed the questions, and the answers were insightful and helped me to put the ideas into a whole picture.

At the moment I am reading Chapter 2 entitled Applied (The Seven Properties). Frequent Delivery, Reflective Improvement, and Osmotic Communication made sense to me and aligned somewhat to my own beliefs. When I started reading the fourth property, Personal Safety, certain parts seemed fine, while others set off warning bells. I believe that the purpose of any team is to progress. This is achieved through trust, respect and unity.

Cockburn says “Once personal safety and amicability are established, a useful, playful dynamic may emerge. People may wage competition with each other. They may argue loudly, even to the verge of fighting, without taking it personally. In the case where someone does take it personally, they sort it out and set things straight again.” – page 31.

The statements above concern me. Cockburn addresses trust by saying that people will not take it personally. Respect is lost because they “… May argue loudly, even to the verge of fighting”. I would be unable to say that I respect someone if I yell at them or even raise my voice. Now unity is completely destroyed. For some reason our society and many societies around the world not only condone competition, it is seen as a way to judge attributes of excellence in an individual. This is not a good sign for our progress towards unity in human civilization.

I agree that being polite and not stating one’s opinion is harmful for trust. However, it is preferable to use consultation instead of competition. Imagine that a team is encouraged to compete with itself to achieve better results. Would there not be feelings of resentment or heightened levels of stress? Now imagine a team that is encouraged to consult and raise the team together without focusing on individual success. Would not this team feel excited to be around each other? Would they become fast friends and grow as a unit? Would family members of the team be enthusiastic to be included in picnics and socials?

Now the big question:
What is better, individual success or team unity that add value to not only the team but all who interact with them?

I will continue to read this book and post my reviews. I find it interesting that this book has helped to see the confusion that is happening all around the world in terms of progress, success, and human development.

I welcome any comments on my posts.

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One thought on “Crystal Clear – A Book on Small Teams (pt. 2)

  1. Paul,

    Thanks for posting this review it looks like an interesting book that I may buy this weekend. Without having read the book, I think you may have missed the point that the author is trying to make.

    A heated debate can occur if there is a baseline, known attitude of respect. We live in a world where there is extreme disrespect for human beings and this renders many of us insecure in relationships with others and within new teams. This insecurity hinders the unity and function of a team. A heated discussion in no way implies disrespect. Many of the things I have learned now were because people respectfully challenged assumptions that I had made on a situation, these challenges are made with the utmost respect even though they may appear heated. A sincere but heated discussion indicates passion for the truth and passion for improvement. A team needs open honest and sincere dialogue that is committed to continuous improvement for the team.

    Disrespect in teams occurs when people are untruthful and deceptive with one another. This is often done in an environment where heated debates are non-existent and suppressed in this aura of “respect”. Such disrespect breeds insecurity and apathy. Such teams do not yield progressive results and fail at addressing the fundamental needs of humanity. Although, many of them still thrive financially and achieve some form of material “success” in our world today.

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