Project Charter

He signed the charter with a flourish... With excerpts from my Project Management Novel, I will illustrate the many processes of the PMBOK.  Here is the first one: The Project Charter. Use this map to see how this process fits into the scheme of processes. 

CharterOn arriving at the pit, Gwilym sat down and put his leg up, easing the throbbing. He surveyed the quarry while he waited for the quarryman to come to him. The pit had originally been the western end of this hill. Previous generations had burrowed into and down from that point until it now cut about half a mile east into the hill and dropped fifty feet in a slow spiral which allowed the rocks to be carted out. A set of sturdy ladders dropped from one spiral road to the next. It was up this shortcut that the quarryman climbed.

The quarryman was a short, barrel-chested old man with sinewy arms and a short, grizzled beard. “I thought it about time you came to me for stone. How much will ye be buying?”

“I need a hundred tons for now, cut square about two feet to a side. When can you deliver it?”

“I can start delivering two tons at a time when I get gold for first shipment.”

“Gold?” asked Gwilym

“Ay. Arthur’s gold. With boy king’s face on it.”

A pain started in the back of Gwilym’s head and spread to the front. He closed his eyes, rubbed his temples and said, “But Father Drew said that the quarry belongs to the church and it is his to use.”

“Aye, church owns it but tower is being built for defense of city. So gold must come from king.”

“Father Drew appointed me the Project Manager. He is the one in charge of the tower. And he is of the church.”

“Father Drew is priest of village church. Quarry belongs to whole church. And for that, you either pay me gold or get permission from bishop.”

Small lights seemed to be dancing in front of his eyes, even though his lids were closed. He spoke through his headache. “Start cutting now, quarryman. I’ll get the permission in time to take shipment.” Gwilym limped off to his cart and made the long ride back, the clouds darkening as he traveled.

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Six days later, Bleddyn woke up to see his father writing on a new sheet of lambskin. He loved his father’s neat script so he looked over his shoulder to see what he was writing. The lambskin documented many details about the tower, why it was being built, who had to do the work, who was in charge of what, where the materials would come from. “What are you writing, Da?”

“It’s a letter for the king’s signature so that no-one argues with me anymore about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”

“Ooh! Like a royal charter?”

“Aye. That’s what it is, son.” Gwilym wrote at the top of the skin: Royal Charter for the Huish Tower. “Will you come with me to Caerleon?” he asked.

Bleddyn’s mouth dropped open. He was full of questions: “How many days travel? Where will we sleep? How should we dress? Will we meet the king? Will we meet Sir Launcelot? How do you bow to a Knight, to a King?”

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Sir Kay escorted Gwilym and his son into the noisy Great Hall. Walls of tree trunks rose like a palisade to the wooden roof.  No other pillars held up the roof of this thirty foot square room. Huge logs blazed in the two fire-pits. Hunting dogs abounded, lying in piles of rags near the fires, snapping up food from the table, fighting for dominance. King Arthur sat at the center of a group of boisterous, feasting men, shouting their hunting exploits over one another, wrestling for sport, yelling insults to each other, crowding as close to the king as they could.

One of them spotted Gwilym and yelled out, “Watch out fellows, we’re being attacked by a Saxon giant!” The rest seemed compelled to make sport of him.

“Where did you get your leg wound Saxon, did I leave one of you alive in my wake?”

“Have you come to beg peace of us at last, Saxon king?”

The knights burst into laughter at this last jest. Kay walked Gwilym and Bleddyn toward the king. The men quieted one by one at Gwilym’s approach until Arthur stopped his conversation with Launcelot and looked up. The clicking of Gwilym’s crutches on the flagstone floor was now the only sound.

“How came you by that wound, Saxon?” Launcelot inquired.

“I’m no Saxon, Sir Launcelot.” replied Gwilym. “I rebuild the watchtower at Huish and come to ask help of my king.”

“Ask away,” said the king. Gwilym’s eyebrows rose when he saw the king up close. He was just starting his first beard and his skin still had the rosy hue of a boy. Yet he appeared comfortable in his role. He wasn’t looking around for the approval of his elders in the way of other young leaders Gwilym had encountered.

“My lord,” said Gwilym, giving his rehearsed speech. “The watchtower at Huish is an essential part of your country’s defenses. It watches one of the Eirish invasion routes. It provides early warning of their approach and serves as a signal tower to the rest of England. The completion of this tower cannot be delayed.”

“And yet is has been delayed!” interrupted one of the knights. “The old master builder informed us yesterday that someone sabotaged the tower, causing it to collapse and getting himself appointed to the rebuilding. What say you to this charge?”

Gwilym faced the knight. “Tarrant says many things when witnesses are not around and little when there are people to dispute him. Think you Father Drew a fool that he fire Tarrant and put me in his place? If you wish to see why his tower fell and my design will not, my nine-year-old son will demonstrate while I continue.” This drew the eyes of the curious knights as Bleddyn soaked the small sticks in water and began assembling the two towers, explaining the differences as he went.

Gwilym returned his gaze to King Arthur. “Do you agree, your grace, that this tower cannot be delayed?” He received King Arthur’s nod.

“And do you agree that there are many things that could delay its construction: supplies of logs, stone, men and masons?” Once again he received a nod.

“And if your grace were with me at all times when I struggled to obtain these items and continue with the building, I would see no delays?”

Arthur squirmed, “I’ve no plans to stay by your side during a tower construction. While it is important, there are many other things that require my attention during this time.”

“True, my lord. But what if I carried with me a royal charter, spelling out what I was charged with building, how much wood, stone and skilled men I needed, where I was to obtain these, how much I should pay for these, where the tower should stand and how high? What if this charter could say your words for you, while you continued with your other leadership duties in peace?”

“I would ask to see this charter.”

Gwilym pulled the scroll from his bag, untied the ribbon and unrolled it in front of the king. Arthur, Launcelot, Kay and a couple of the other knights read it with interest. The others paid close attention to the models being built by Bleddyn.

“What information did you use to create this document?” said the king.

Gwilym replied. “I started with the statement of work showing what we must do to be successful. I added the terms of the original contract. I also put in a business case so that you could see the value you receive for the money you spend.”

“You would like me to affix my signature to this, ahh…Gwilym?” said King Arthur, scanning the charter again for his name.

“Plus the royal seal in the space at the bottom if you would, your grace. I want it to be an impressive document, even for those who cannot read it.”

“What say you, Launcelot?” he asked of the handsome knight to his right who was studying Gwilym with interest.

Launcelot paused and looked deep into Gwilym’s eyes. Gwilym felt uncomfortable but met his stare. “And what does Merlin have to say of this charter?”

“It was Merlin’s idea.”

“Merlin never tells anyone what to do. What do you mean it was his idea?”

“Merlin asked me questions that made me think of this solution.”

“Ha!” Launcelot barked out a quick laugh. “That’s Merlin.” He turned to King Arthur and said, “I think you should sign this charter and watch this man to see how well it works. My kinsman has good ideas, even if he never says them out loud.”

King Arthur called for quill, ink and wax and smiled when seeing that Kay had them ready. He signed the charter with a flourish, attached a red ribbon to the bottom with some drips of red wax, then pressed his ring into the cooling wax to leave an imprint of the dragon seal. He handed this back to Gwilym and asked if the silver he had left over would be sufficient to complete the tower.

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They arose again at dawn and rode as fast as Gwilym was able to the quarry near Huish, finding the quarryman and his men hard at work in the pit. The winter sun had warmed the pit to a pleasant temperature.

“I have a royal charter signed by the High King that authorizes me to use your stone to build the tower.” Gwilym unrolled the charter. He guessed that the man was illiterate but, like most of his kind, held written words akin to magic.

“Where says it how much stone you take?” he inquired, his eyes scanning the document and lingering long on the seal and red ribbon.

Gwilym showed the man the passage about the stone and circled the amount with his fingers, knowing that the man knew his numbers. “I see you’ve been careful to cut the stone, knowing that this misunderstanding would be resolved soon. I commend you for your foresight, brother.”

The quarryman swelled with pride, seeming to forget that he had been ordered to cut the stone by Gwilym a week ago.

Gwilym showed him another section of the charter. “Notice here that we call for a large, square stone, big enough to cover the whole top of the tower but no more than a foot thick so that it can be hauled to the top and placed there without collapsing the tower. It’s designed to protect it from flaming arrows and thrown rocks. Can you make that?”

“It’s hard to cut stone that big and thin. But I’ll try.”

“Good! Can you start carting what you’ve made to the site tomorrow?”

To read the entire first draft of this novel and put this excerpt in context, click here: