Asterix has a problem: The Druid Getafix is a “Bus Factor of 1.” Chief Vitalstatistix ought to be ashamed of himself for not doing more to protect that asset and plan for his village’s future.
As a Project Manager, Vitalstatistix is a failure.
Asterix’s Village’s Security Plan
The small village in the northwest corner of France that is the home of Asterix and Obelix is the last remaining Gaulish village to hold out against the Roman emperor Julius Caesar’s decade-long Gallic War campaign. Every other village in the area of Gaul is under Roman rule.
This particular village has a magic potion that its druid, Getafix, creates. It gives them super strength to fight off any Roman attempt at conquering them. He’s even won awards for it.
It’s almost always the Magic Potion that gives them that freeedom.
The Magic Potion is, in a way, the village’s Unique Selling Proposition. Every other village lost to the Romans. This village, alone, has held them off.
A Bus Factor of 1
The problem is, the Druid Getafix is the only person who can make the Magic Potion. And he can only make it in batches of a certain size that never last all that long. He’s never stockpiled enough Magic Potion to last very long or to give everyone enough to last the length of a full blast Roman siege.
He seems to produce the Magic Potion at a very leisurely pace, without the pressure that he should be feeling.
The Druid Getafix is a textbook definition of a “Bus Factor of 1.”
Wikipedia helpfully defines “The Bus Factor” thusly:
The bus factor is a measurement of the risk resulting from information and capabilities not being shared among team members, from the phrase “in case they get hit by a bus”. […]
The term was first applied to software development, where a team member might create critical components by crafting code that performs well, but which also is unavailable to other team members, such as work that was undocumented, never shared, encrypted, obfuscated, unpublished, or otherwise incomprehensible to others. Thus a key component would be effectively lost as a direct consequence of the absence of that team member, making the member key. If this component was key to the project’s advancement, the project would stall.
What would this term have been in 50 BC? “Chariot Factor”?
The Cold, Hard, Realistic Truth
Let’s face it, Getafix is a Bus Factor of 1 for this village.
The Village doesn’t have a plan in place to account for that.
There’s no plan of succession. There’s no junior Druid/apprentice on hand. There is no cross-training. There’s no recipe!
Getafix is not a young man. He won’t be there to protect the village forever and ever.
Remember when Steve Jobs was sick and Apple stock took a hit because there was no pre-announced plan of succession? Personally, I’d short stock in The Village due to this ridiculous structure to their defense systems.
Who’s Fault Is This?
The fish rots from the head first. The buck stops at the top.
Chief Vitalstatistix is woefully inadequate as a leader here.
His entire reign as the Chief of the village is based on the survival, well being, and continued productivity of Getafix. Without Getafix, it’s over. The Village cannot win. The Romans finally win.
He’s not protecting this asset. Getafix is vital to the continued success of his Chiefdom. Yet he allows Getafix to walk around without any security. He doesn’t blink when Getafix decides to take a leisurely stroll into the forest with his Golden Sickle to hunt for ingredients. (Thankfully, Asterix often follows him when he sees this. Asterix, at least, is smart enough to know the situation here.)
Getafix can even go for days at a time to attend a Druid convention in the woods, and that didn’t go so well last time.
Chief Vitalstatistix ought to have some sort of plans in place to account for this weakness in his Village’s security. So far, he’s failed on that count. There’s no plan of succession.
With the careless toss of a Menhir, the entire village might be shaving their heads and pledging their fealty to Julius Caesar.
Solutions to this Problem
Cross-Training: Someone else in the Village ought to learn how to make the magic potion. Asterix is the most likely person, as he’s the most reliable and the smartest one.
Documentation: At least write the recipe down! We know the ingredients, but ratios and amounts are still unknown. Nobody likes documentation, particularly when you have to chisel it out, but it’s a necessary evil. Outsource the work to someone in Lutetia, if need be.
Plan of Succession: Reach out to the other Druids to see who might be available in the general area in case Getafix can no longer fulfill the role the Village depends on. What if Getafix wants to retire and live a life of quiet contemplation in the woods? Who will step in? Not even the other Druids know his recipe!
Increased Production: This is a short term solution, but Getafix has to get serious about producing this potion. Efficiencies need to be put into place. Automation systems need to be introduced. Whatever it takes, more Potion needs to be made. There needs to be a rainy day fund of Magic Potion. If Getafix drops dead and the next closest Druid who knows the recipes is two days away, they better be able to cover that time.
How the Romans Could Win
So far, the Romans haven’t seemed to figure this out. You’d think they’d be watching Getafix the closest. He’s the weak link.
Their spy learned all about the Magic Potion and the Romans were able to kidnap Getafix after that, but they’ve left him alone, ever since. This is a simple waiting game. The Romans have a good supply line. They can outlast the Villagers. They just need to keep Getafix from ever getting into the woods to chop in the trees for the ingredients he needs.
No additional Magic Potion combined with the depletion of reserves would lead to a weakening of the Village to the point where the Romans can win.
What About Obelix?
Ah, yes, he’s the backup plan. As we all know, he doesn’t need any Magic Potion because he fell into a vat of Magic Potion as a baby.
But he still needs to nap. He’s good, but can he take on 100,000 soldiers at the same time? Is he not easily distracted? Could you hold Dogmatix for ransom? Could you round up all the wild boars and move them far away? Obelix is strong, but he has to eat. He loves to eat. And there’s no sign that he’s a good planner. A smart Roman leader would find a way to take advantage of that lack of expertise.
The Village is In Trouble
But we all know that none of these preparations or precautions will happen, unless maybe Jean-Yves Ferri decides to address it in the next book. It might make for a funny Village-based story…