Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Pottery Making, Iterations and Identity Management

I'm a big fan of iterations in identity management implementations. The reason is pretty simple: you can't learn from lessons until you try. (You could learn from consulting firms, but not about your environment.) Which means that you don't get really good at delivering identity management until the 3rd or 4th time. (So take that 9 month project and break it down into smaller 3 month projects!)

Anyhow, here is the pottery making connection. It's a parable a co-worker forwarded to me from Art and Fear:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot—albeit a perfect one—to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

The lesson: Take on a small, well-defined, low-risk phase 1. Learn lessons. Take on a small, well-defined phase 2. Lather, rinse, repeat.