The Pentic Code

Robert Langdon stirred angrily in his sleep in his extravagantly luxurious hotel suite in central London. The phone on the tiny antique bedside table was ringing incessantly.

“It’s probably another butt dial” he thought to himself as he rolled over and pulled the pure white Egyptian cotton duvet tight over his head.

The phone continued to ring loudly above the sound of the relentless rain pounding against the window of his expensive hotel.

A voice in his head spoke. “Remember the last three times this happened to you? A call in the middle of the night in a strange hotel? Each one led to greater name recognition and another mystery to be solved. Maybe this could be even bigger than “The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons or even The Lost Symbol.”

Grumbling loudly, he grabbed the phone and was shocked to hear Sophie, the cute French grand-daughter of the curator of the Louvre on the other end.

“Sacre bleu” she whispered in her beautiful French accent. “I am so sorry to wake you but it is an emergency and only you can elp us.” He melted at the sound of her voice.

“I am in New York and have managed to get a hard copy of ze PMBOK”

His eyelids rose as he struggled to find a link between the city known as ‘The Big Apple’ and a South African gazelle.

“No, it is not an animal”, she corrected him switching to an American accent. “It is the big brown book that the Pimps read.”

Intrigued now he sat bolt upright in the bed – eying himself in the largest mirror in the room adjacent to the humongous bathroom. He frowned as he caught sight of the 3 day beard and strongly greying temples.

“I am afraid that the PMBOK is being used as a Trojan Horse to spread the Pentic code around the world.” She continued. “These Pimps are clueless to what is happening” she said, exasperated.

The Pentic code…. of course he had heard about it. The number 5 and all its associations had been vying for world supremacy with the numbers 3 and 7 since the time before numbers. She must mean ‘PMP’s’ he thought, congratulating himself on his unique ability to make amazing neuronal connections – Project Management Professionals. He vaguely remembered meeting a PMP in Australia of all places. Even then he suspected a Pentic Code link when he heard about the 5 project processes. He put it down to a coincidence then. He had never followed up on his hunch as he had heard that the book itself was rumoured to be so uninteresting that once you put it down it was impossible to pick it up again. But that was long ago.

“Are you still there?” Sophie asked after a long pause for that paragraph.

“Oui” said Robert in his flawless French accent. “I was researching this very thing when we met in the Louvre many years ago. You may well be onto something here. There are 3 million copies of The Project Management Body of Knowledge in circulation, it has been translated into 13 languages and god knows how many illegal downloads are out there infecting the minds of ordinary people unlike us. We must do something to help them and stop the spread of this deadly code.”

“But first we must establish how bad is the infection” said Sophie in her gorgeous accent again.” I am sending you a copy of the book by email now as we speak”.

Robert sat by his computer waiting. The incredibly slow internet service gave him time to kick his amazing brain into gear. Why the link between 5 and project managers? Could it be related to their incessant need to say ‘on the one hand’? Or perhaps related to the ‘5 second rule’ observed by many novice project managers with their infants’ floor-bound food? So many questions he thought to himself and so little time.”

A gentle ringtone alerted him to the Skype call from Sophie. She was still so very attractive. She didn’t seem too bothered by his dishevelled state.

“Did you notice?” said Sophie holding up the brown book, “that this is version 4. But please don’t be fooled. Version 5 is due out in 2013 and I’m sure they will make their big move then. We don’t have much time to break this nut case”.

They both opened the book and started combing the pages looking for signs of the Pentic code. At times it jumped straight out at them like the 5 project processes or the 5 steps in Scope and Communications management. Other times they had to look a bit closer to see it revealed in the 5 phases of the Tuckman/ Jensen Team development model, or the 5 part RASIC code in the RAM tool. It was staring them in the face in the SMART mnemonic but more subtle in the 5*5 ‘Probability by Impact Matrix’ in Risk assessment. Sometimes it seemed to be embedded into the very fabric of the book like the 5 group creativity techniques in Collect Requirements and other times obscured as in the 4 group decision making techniques in the same step. Robert and Sophie weren’t fooled by this one. The 5th decision making technique, ‘group lethargy’, would no doubt be easily added in the 5th version.

They carried on through the night, intermittently excusing themselves for a bathroom break or room service. At no point was either concerned about anything else. This was a mystery and demanded all of their powers.

“Voila!” exclaimed Sophie suddenly as she came towards the end of the book. “They have even hidden it in the 5 parts of the communications model on page 255.”

“This is useless” cried Robert.  “Soph, Do you see page 264? ‘Under interpersonal skills, 4th bullet down – do you see ‘Overcoming resistance to change”?

“Yes I do, Bob” said Sophie returning the irritating shortening of names so loved by Americans “What is the matter with that?”

“That is a sly reference to the 5 stages of the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross ‘Grief’ model” declared Robert as if his very life force was being sucked out of him.

“You are so amazing” said Sophie holding the pillow close to her chest. “Where would the world be without you?”

“I don’t know” murmured Robert as he collapsed on the bed. “But we will have to start all over again and look even more closely. The whole book is riddled with the Pentic code and will demand even more of my brilliance”.

He dropped the laptop as his head fell on the feather pillows. His eyes closed tight against the daylight peeking through the open windows

 

“Robert, Robert” cried Sophie into his laptop. The last thing she saw illuminated on the far wall of his hotel room was a very ‘5’ like impression made by the suns rays rising behind The London Eye and Big Ben.

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