Sunday, December 4, 2011

Twenty-fourth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

Chapter Three – Londinium

“Two of the six stones have been placed, is the third to be placed at Canterbury?”
Merlin gave Viviane a keen look. “That is one option but we have decided to add the power of Belinus into our spell. The next stone will be placed in Londinium.”
 “But that is not on a line.”
“It is close. The power of Belinus will make up for the location being slightly off.”
“We cannot afford to make any mistakes Merlin. We have one chance to do this properly. Arthur is looking for a wife and the Christians are pushing hard for one of their own.”
“That is not a bad thing, as long as she is tolerant.”
“Too few of them are these days.”
“And Grainne? Is she still your loyal priestess?”
“She loves her son.”
“Is Gwilym the father?”
“The son has the royal blood from both sides, we must watch this one.”
“He must be fostered out.” Viviane was adamant.
“Not yet, allow him some education first. Don’t force your own experience on the girl, Viviane.”
“I had hoped for a daughter that we could raise here to follow me. What does Grainne know of Gwilym?”
“Just that he is an educated laborer.”
“Educated indeed. He is starting to ask questions.”
“Is that such a bad thing, Viviane?”

“Could you draw them a picture?” asked Merlin.

On their travels to Londinium, Fred, Gwilym and his family spent the first night at a hermitage where they shared their food in exchange for lodging. They arrived a couple of hours before dark but the boys were tired and getting cranky so Gwilym thought to give them some early rest this first day. As they sat eating with the hermit, another horse pulled up outside. Their host went out to welcome his guest. Gwilym was pleasantly surprised to see Merlin walking in. Merlin smiled at Gwilym, patted his little boys on their heads and looked seriously at Bleddyn saying, “What have you been reading this year, son?”
Bleddyn entered into a long discourse about the exciting sagas he had been hearing and proudly showed Merlin his scrolls with his careful writing on them. Merlin praised the boy for his neat script. After eating, Fred put the dozing twins to bed and set up blankets for Gwilym, Bleddyn and himself next to them. Merlin was still questioning Bleddyn who was biting through his yawns to answer him. Finally, Fred led Bleddyn to bed where they both quickly dropped off to sleep. Gwilym talked with Merlin.
“I’ve come to inspect your tower, Gwilym. How did it turn out?”
“I completed it on budget. It seems the scope changes I made weren't initially to Sir Kay’s liking but he found them useful for other purposes.”
“And what did you learn about projects this time around?”
Gwilym thought for a bit. “Having the requirements on the scope written down and
agreed to by everyone was useful but people still do whatever they want to get to those ends. We need to agree how to get there before we start. Have you any ideas to improve this?”
“What is the problem with everyone going their own way?” asked Merlin.
“They sometimes do things twice or three times. Or redo a job someone else already did because it didn’t suit their purpose.”
“How do you ensure that everyone sees what everyone else plans to do?”
Gwilym spent some more time deep in thought. “It’s all about deciding HOW to do things. The charter taught us WHAT had to be done and WHERE it was being built and WHY we had to do it. The requirements and scope tell us more about WHAT to do. We need something that tells HOW to do it.”
“What tells you how to build a tower?”
“There are lots of elements to a tower. The foundations, the wooden supports, the stonework, the stairs, roof, walkways, etc. There are lots of different ways to build any of these. We need to agree in advance which way to build them. If I wrote down foundations, then broke that down to its elements, like stone, rock, gravel, quicklime, I could get agreement how to do it. Same with any of the other parts of the tower. But these people can mostly not read. I need to make it simple for them. They can recognize words like ‘stone’ but not in a paragraph.”
“Could you draw them a picture?” asked Merlin.
“Not a picture of the tower. That won’t show what has to lead up to what. But if I wrote 'Foundation', then showed arrows leading from that to the elements of foundation, like rock, quicklime, etc. then they could agree on that. I could do the same for the wooden supports, the barracks, everything. It’s as though I took all the work required and broke it down into the subcomponents. What do you call that, Merlin?”
“It sounds like you already named it, Gwilym.”
“What? Work subcomponents? Work Breakdown? It’s a picture or a chart that shows the structure of the project. Work subcomponents picture, Work Breakdown chart, Work Breakdown Structure? That one sounds good: Work Breakdown Structure. What do you think, Merlin?”
“Do you think the name suits? And will it do the job you need?”
“I do like the name. Work Breakdown Structure. As far as doing what I need, I’m not sure. We can try this next time but I think we might need more. After all, even with the wood, there are many ways to put it together to make the structure. We need to define the activities that lead us to the elements. We need to spell out HOW we are going to do every step. Something like, ‘Make metal template.’ ‘Cut ends of logs to fit template.’ ‘Place second log on top of first matching cuts.’ Not too much detail but enough so that we can see where duplicate work appears and which activities need to be done first.”
“Sounds sensible. Does it answer the question, HOW?”
“The two tools do. Work Breakdown Structure and Define Activities. I like it! Thanks again Merlin. I can’t wait to tell Fred of these new tools.”
“Will he add them to his song?”
“Did you hear his song, Merlin?”
“Fred’s words have reached my ears. Good night Gwilym.”
Gwilym went off to join his sons in the bed, thinking about the new tools and seeing how well he could use them in his next project.

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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