The Timeline Maker [A Story]

This is a story about a timeline maker in a small village with a lot of small industrial enterprises.

Old Towne

The Timeline Maker Begins

The timeline maker had a little store, that he opened on the main street of the town. On the day he opened for business, the neighboring stores’ owners came walking into his store.

“What’s a timeline?” they asked. “I don’t see any machinery or tools,” one said, accusingly. “What are you making this thing with?” another demanded.

“Well, friends,” said the timeline maker. “A timeline is a tool for you. It helps you plan your work accordingly, and it increases your productivity. Say, what do you do?” asked the timeline maker to one of his visitors.

“I make widgets in my workshop,” said the small business owner, proudly.

“That’s great! Tell me, how do you organize your workshop efficiently?” asked the timeline maker.

“Well, we have a lot of workers on the workshop floor, and my foreman makes sure each is working hard.”

“That’s a good system!” exclaimed the timeline maker. “But with my little tool, you can make it even more efficient. You can map out how long each individual task takes, and use this to identify which tasks need more workers, and others less. By doing this, you can increase production with a perfectly placed workforce.”

“That sounds wonderful!” cried the small business owner. “I want one of your timeline tools.” As he took out his wallet to pay the timeline maker, he asked, “by the way, kind sir – what is your name?” And the smiling, mustached timeline maker answered, “my name, dear sir, is Henry Gantt.”

The Timeline Maker Grows

Soon, the whole town was using Mr. Gantt’s timelines. Some enterprising individuals studied the timelines and came to understand the secret methodologies that went into making one. Before Mr. Gantt could blink, his simple shop became a towering office building, full of experts who could not only create timelines but also manage the projects they would be used for. And businesses from around the land came calling, looking for a timeline maker to employ. What was once just a tool, became an entire industry!

A Few Years Passed…And Everything Changed

Soon after that, a new technology was created by Wizards in a far away land called Sandy Valley. These Wizards applied powerful Magic to ordinary Mirrors, giving them powers that could help people doing their work…and entertainment, too. Now, people could talk to Magic Mirrors, and the mirrors would be able to show them anything they asked for. Some powerfully magicked mirrors could not only show things, but could be told how to create them too.

One day, a Wizard working in Mr. Gantt’s Timeline Company realized that they could create a special timeline to be used with the Magic Mirrors. He wisely left the company, rented a small stable down the road from a glazier and a wizard college, and set to work. Before long, he had created a magic mirror timeline maker, that anyone with a mirror could use. Workshops and companies all over the world with Magic Mirrors began to use his timeline. It was just like Mr. Gantt’s, only it worked with magic mirrors. The in house Mr. Gantt experts were thrilled at the time they would save by using the Magic Mirror. No more making the timeline by hand! This new timeline was called M’s Project, for the two Ms of Magic Mirror.

Different Timeline Makers For Different Folks

Before long, other wizards were making different, more powerful timeline makers. Some had special boxes that could move across the magic mirror whenever something was done. (This timeline was made by a wagon maker who observed the crates being moved around a grocer’s store.) Others specialized in helping plan individual tasks. Still others built in other features, like Mirror to Mirror communication, or special magic colors. But they all used the same timeline template of Mr. Gantt’s Timeline – whether they showed it or not. The Gantt Timeline Company’s secret methodology of creating a timeline to plan tasks was still the way everything was done. M’s Project was still the gold standard.

But the Wizards making better Magic Mirrors didn’t like the M’s Project timeline. Their work was magical, after all, and it didn’t really happen by planning tasks. You can’t plan a task list for magic! They used a different system in planning their projects, called “Nimble.” And Mr. Gantt’s Timeline was spectacularly useless for Nimble magic projects.

What About A Nimble Timeline Maker?

Nimble Magic Wizards used the Magic Mirror Timelines with the moving boxes tracking tasks, since they didn’t have a Timeline that planned on a Nimble level. But they weren’t happy with this solution. It helped them organize their magic work, but it didn’t give them a timeline they could use visually, and they could only plan a few weeks into the future at a time. Everyone knows Magic Mirror Wizards love visual things…

As time went on, those once happy workshops were starting to have problems with Mr. Gantt’s Timelines. Sure, they were very good at planning tasks. But the nature of their workshops’ work had changed. Thanks to Magic Mirrors, people were doing more work outside the workshop. The materials, once purchased in the marketplace, were now being grown in the countryside by other workers in the same company. It was getting hard to manage all the different tasks necessary for a project with Mr. Gantt’s Timeline. Work that lasted months or years on end, like building a new bridge, became impossible to manage. Delays would creep in to the schedule, and no one could figure out from where. Mr. Gantt’s Timeline Experts appeared more and more like wagon fixers, moving parts and jury-rigging pieces together, and less like planning experts. The Timeline stopped being easy to understand. Something was wrong.

A Happy Ever After Ending…For Some

One day, two Mirror Wizards had an idea. What if, they said, instead of making a timeline for tasks, we made a timeline OF tasks? What  if we combined the simplicity of a bar chart with the utility of planning a project around the team? Mr. Gantt’s Timeline Template places the tasks on the side. This centers the project on the tasks. What if you created a Timeline with the tasks on the timeline itself? Now you can put the focus on the team, instead of the tasks. That wouldn’t just be a task schedule, but would be a complete Project Map!

Excitedly, the two Mirror Wizards rented their own stable and set out to work.

Before long, they perfected their Timeline, and took out a Royal Patent. They began to sell their new Timeline in the marketplace. At first, people were confused. Without tasks placed on the left of the timeline, how do you plan the project? But over time, forward thinking Workshop Managers saw the immense utility in scrapping the task-centered approach for the team-centered one. Nimble Magic Wizards, in particular, were excited. Finally, a Magic Mirror Timeline that could help them both plan and track their work!

Other Timeline Experts were blown away by the new Mirror Timeline, too. It was so visually clear, and so simple to create, that they could walk into their own workshop floors, simply talk with their team, and have a Magic Mirror Timeline for their work ready in just a few minutes that everyone could understand. The two Wizards were happy. They were going to change the way work was done, for the better.

This Timeline Maker Made Waves

The other Magic Mirror Timeline Makers were not happy about this. A far superior Timeline to theirs was bad for business, after all. They began to hire town criers to go out into the streets to proclaim, “Mr. Gantt’s Timelines are the best timelines!” and “Fifty years of experience can’t be wrong!” Some began changing their Magic Mirror Timelines to look different than Mr. Gantt’s, hoping customers would be fooled.

Each would make special moving pictures for people’s Magic Mirrors, showing people with perfect teeth in workshops happily exclaiming that their Magic Mirror Timeline was just so swell and wonderful. They needed to search far and wide to find so many people with perfect teeth, but these moving pictures were all they could do to convince workshops that their Timelines were worth using. But this only made things worse, as other people would try to use them, and discover the same old problems lurking within…

The smart workshops and Nimble Magic Mirror Wizards all quietly started using the new, better, Magic Mirror Timeline. It was only a few, at first. But month after month, more and more workshops and Wizards were telling their Magic Mirrors to use the new Timeline. Their work improved. Delays were avoided. Instead of their Timeline Experts needing to fix the Timelines every time something sneezed, they were able to keep the workshop humming along. Everyone understood their role, and their tasks. It was as idyllic as it could be. For those smart, happy people, it was truly living happily ever after.

The others remain frustrated, inefficient, losing customers to the smarter workshops while telling themselves, “one day I’ll have perfect teeth and my Timeline maker will work the way I want it to…”