Define Activities

With excerpts from my Project Management Novel, I will illustrate the many processes of the PMBOK.  Here is the seventh one: Define Activities. Use this map to see how this process fits into the scheme of processes.  Define Activities

That evening Fred was all smiles as he ate with Gwilym and his boys, going over the day’s events. “It’s as though we could see th’whole bridge and tower bein’ built right in front of us! And we could see where we’d be gettin’ in each other’s way and what had to happen before what else. And that Charlie, rememberin’ the road. We’d ha’ been sloggin’ through the mud before we’d a remembered it. I love this tool. I’m comin’ up wi’ a couple of verses for it in my Project Management Guide song.”

Gwilym smiled at his excited foreman. He too, was happy at how well it had worked but he was also a little troubled by this morning’s events. “I think I may have been premature when I said we knew HOW to build the tower. We know the structure of the project but we need more definition in these activities.”

“Wha’ do tha mean, Gwilym?”

Gwilym frowned. “Well, look at some of these activities. Wood for arch supports, for instance. That doesn’t tell how to get there. The men need to do a lot of things to get that wood. Like: Measure arch; measure depth of water, make a drawing of the supports; add up the measurements; add some extra for scrap; order the wood; deliver the wood. Now, the men are doing that, but who’s to say that some of these more defined activities won’t be repeated or skipped or unnecessary, just like activities in the Work Breakdown Structure. I think we need to define these activities better right now before we run into trouble.”

“Aye. I get what tha means, Gwilym. But do tha worry that th’men will think it stupid to have tha write down ever little step? Will they think tha are watchin’ over them like an owld mother hen?”

“Not if they are the ones giving me the steps. And not if I don’t go to ridiculous detail: ‘Walk to bridge, Look up, Take out measuring stick, Place one end at bottom of tower.’ I think they trust me now. I can go to the master of each activity and ask them to define their activities and then pull it all together myself for them to look at as a whole. And I can find the problems myself before I show it to the men so that they will see the value.”

“Sounds like a lot of work”

Gwilym moved around the team throughout the day, getting definition on all the activities and inscribing them all in his scrolls. He checked in on Fred after every level and praised his careful work. He noticed that as Fred painted, he repeated the name of the letter like a mantra, “G, G, G,” Gwilym smiled to himself and continued gathering information from his men.

While they ate dinner together, one of the older men pushed his way to sit across from Gwilym, stuck his chin out and glared at him. “’Ow long ’ave you been a mason, sonny?”

Gwilym cocked his head and admitted he’d never been one.

“Then why don’t you stop askin’ me stupid questions about me doin’ my job and just concentrate on yer own job?”

Gwilym sighed, held the man’s eye and explained. “My job is making sure everything goes smoothly. I’m getting detail on all of the activities we worked out yesterday so that I can make sure we’re not running into each other, or having to do anything twice. When I’m done, we’ll go over it all and look for the problems.”

Gwilym spent the day inscribing all the defined activities into his scroll and, after the boys were asleep, compared each set of activities to work out the problems. The next morning, when the men assembled, he brought them back into the tavern for an hour and went over each set with them. He read the activities out loud, showed where he had made the corrections, and got their input into the changes. The men were at first shocked when Gwilym crossed out and rewrote over the existing scroll. They were accustomed to scrolls being sacred texts, handled by priests. But they soon got used to it and felt respected for their opinions. By dinner they were all satisfied that the work was well defined so they ate and went off to do their jobs. A carpenter said to the disgruntled mason, “At last, you won’t be asking me to do my work again after I’ve finished.” They both laughed and went to their places.