Proposals for Workload Reduction
The College of Arms has reached the inescapable conclusion that the greatest burden of workload occurs not on the Laurel level, as once suggested by some commentors, but rather at the Regional, Principality and Kingdom levels.
At the Laurel level, there is minimal ceremonial activity and a capable and conscientious Laurel Sovereign could easily perform the duties of the office without ever leaving his or her own home (save perhaps for the Symposium). Direct administration is limited to the dozen Kingdom Principal Heralds and such deputies as have been co-opted to deal with the Armorial, publications, research or special projects. Even in the area of book heraldry and submissions processing the direct advisory function is significantly diminished and the resources for research in the form of the commenting heralds of the College of Arms severely reduce the amount of time and effort required of Laurel to perform the decision-making functions of the office. While the gross number of submissions can be great, the quantity of work required to deal properly with each submission is generally not great at all.
This is not true at the regional, Principality or Kingdom level. Official heralds typically have considerable ceremonial duties in the heralding of courts (which involves a fair amount of time-consuming travel), the design of ceremonies and the maintenance or supervision of precedential material. The typical heraldic administrator directly or indirectly supervises several dozen local and at large heralds (in some Kingdoms the Principal Herald is responsible for front line administration of as many as 180 heralds!). For many senior heralds general research and participation in the College of Arms also is a major component of their duties (someone has to do those comments for Laurel!). Submission processing consumes vast amounts of time with much of this time being devoted to submissions research, submissions notification, and consultation, direct or indirect, with submittors whose submissions "need work".
At the national level nothing significant can (or probably should) be done to diminish the ceremonial or administrative duties of the Kingdom heralds and their immediate subordinates. These are primarily internal matters, set by Kingdom law and tradition, and there would be much justifiable annoyance were the Laurel Office or, indeed the Board, to intervene.
However, much can be done to diminish the burden of submissions processing at the regional, Principality and Kingdom level. It is axiomatic amongst heralds that "bad" submissions, i.e., submissions which are in contravention of one or more of the traditional guidelines for submissions in the College of Arms, require more work at every level in processing, in consultation and in revision. By shifting the point of return for most such "bad" submissions to the local level rather than the regional, Principality or Kingdom level, the workload for the intermediate heraldic staff can be drastically reduced simply and effectively. The profit to be gained from this will vary from Kingdom to Kingdom, of course, but will be considerable since several Principal Heralds have informed me that they return as many as 60% of their submissions at the Kingdom level, most of these returns being for reasons other than conflict.
Increasing the efficiency of the "filtration" process at the local level will reduce the workload of senior heralds (less research, fewer letters and consultations, less time devoted to administrative handling of the actual paperwork), thus decreasing the potential for "burn out" and increasing the amount of time available for improved research, educational projects and other heraldic duties such as field and court heraldry.
Other important benefits may be expected to ensue as well. These include a more balanced and well-supported flow of submissions to the College of Arms, since fewer submissions at the Kingdom level will diminish the administrative entropy that builds up the kind of backlogs that have periodically swamped the College from time to time over the past couple of years (creating temporary overwork for commentors and sometimes for Laurel). The average length of time required for a decision on the individual submission should diminish, particularly for unsuccessful submissions: the time required for processing on the local level is usually a matter of days as opposed to the weeks or months demanded for research and processing at Kingdom or Laurel level. This should result in greater public satisfaction with heralds in general and senior heralds in particular, with consequent increases in the numbers of those who willingly volunteer for those positions (a significant portion of the disenchantment expressed by "heraldic dropouts" has to do with the bad karma involved in dealing with irate submittors). Hopefully, it will also result in an improvement in the general level of names and armoury, arising not merely from more accessible and comprehensive regulations, but also from increased willingness of submittors to revise for quality, if they have not already invested months or years in a particular submission.
All this is very well, you may say, but how do we propose to achieve these goals? The following steps should go a long way towards shifting the burden of submissions processing downwards without involving extensive investments of time or money on the part of the local heralds or their regional, Principality or Kingdom superiors. Preliminary tests on "guinea pig pursuivants" indicate that improvements should be manifest fairly quickly without any perception of diminution of service on the part of the populace (indeed, since the role of the accessible local herald is increased, the populace may well feel that the services provided in the area of submissions processing by heralds have increased!)
The primary thrust of the effort is to simplify submissions processing for the local herald, make the process and principles involved comprehensible to both submittor and heraldic advisor alike and increase the access to resources for advising and decision making for local heralds. Concrete measures to be taken over the next six months include:
1. Promulgation of drastically simplified and rationalized Guidelines for Submission. (See the preliminary draft attached.) Laurel would like to give herself the Rules for her birthday (mid-September). At this point, the final "for comment" draft would go out to the College by the end of this month. The final draft would be promulgated either on 1 September or 1 October (depending on how early in July the "for comment" draft goes out which in turn depends on how soon we get the tapes from the rules discussion at the Symposium from the Autocrat). For a three-month period submissions would be considered at the Laurel meetings on the basis of whichever set of rules would be most in favour of the submittor. At the end of that period and no later than 1 January, 1989, the new set of rules would be completely in effect.
The "Reader's Digest" version of the rules, i.e., the short version which may only run to a single page in TI will be published in TI, hopefully in the Winter issue if we can make the deadlines. (We have already spoken to the Society Chronicler on this subject.) The fuller rules with commentary on changes will be distributed as noted in item 2 below.
The intent of the new set of rules is to emphasize the parallel requirements for names and armoury, to focus on principles which are explainable and comprehensible t the populace and to avoid the creation of special case exceptions to the general principles which confuse the submittor and herald. It is possible that the last consideration may reduce the "equity factor" of the rules by 1% or 2% since most of the special cases were introduced to meet questions of equity raised by individual situations, but the net effect will be increased equity since decisions will be more comprehensible. "Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done" is an old principle of common law and at the present time justice is not perceived by a large subset of the populace even if it does exist.
The net effect of the rules, as a careful reading will reveal, is to loosen up considerably on the requirements for names in accordance with previous Board directives without sacrificing the stated goal of names compatible with our mediaeval aesthetic. In particular, requirements for documenting particular variants of period style names have been relaxed, diminutives are allow for formal registration and allowances for constructed names and names borrowed from literature have been extended.
With regard to armoury, the end result may be to tighten up slightly on style, particularly in the area of contrast, in the interests of consistency and comprehensibility. Principles of period style are incorporated into the rules in a positive manner so that local heralds should be able to determine much more readily what is non-period style (at the present time, even the Compleat Anachronist pamphlet on style is confusing to even senior heralds when taken in context of our stated rules). The net movement towards simpler and better style with more consistent applications of what should be simple principles is slight but should be positive.
The general net result of the simplification of the difference system is to guarantee that heralds only need to be able to count to two in order to function (no fractions or "heraldic calculus"). It is no longer necessary to make fine distinctions as to the types of armoury involved before attempting to determine whether there is a conflict which simplifies matters for local heralds considerably. (Even most members of the Laurel staff cannot tell you the difference rules for mon in the current rules without looking.) For the last few months we have been doing "back-of-the-head" counts of what would or would not have passed on the new point count system and there is a definite reduction in net difference required. It is difficult to create tight analogues since the systems function differently. However, while the range of difference under the old system which would suffice for difference under the new rules runs from two minor points of difference to two majors, the average difference required is a major and a minor. Approximately 30% to 40% of the submissions returned for Society conflict over the past few months would have passed under the new system and a considerably higher proportion of those which conflicted with mundane items. wiould have passed. Most of these returns were simple pieces of armoury which were "technical conflicts" of the sort that the populace has had difficulty in understanding for some years!
2. A one-time direct mail distribution of the complete rules together with the other items covered in 3 and 4 below to every local group in the Society. The Steward informs me that there are approximately 550 local groups in the Society and we propose to send a first class direct mailing, based on the Steward's mailing labels for Seneschals, to every local group.
One of the problems of previous rules distributions has been that it depended on the trickle down theory which has worked as well for the heralds on the whole as it has for Ronald Reagan. Substantial delays in circulation of rules, failure to circulate them in usable form or "modification" or and abridgement of rules or total failure to send rules below the Kingdom level have dogged almost every Kingdom at one time or another until you are hard put to find even senior Baronial heralds who own and understand the rules. This will resolve this by guaranteeing that all local heralds have full access to the rules before they go into full effect.
3. A "Cheat Sheet for Local Heralds" will be distributed in the direct mailing. This has been devised by Laurel to simplify the process of submissions processing at the local level (almost but not quite to the "idiot proof" stage). This asks plain English questions of the local herald (or the submittor, if it come to that) which allow him or her to determine whether the proposed submission will satisfy the rules. For example, one starts by asking "Is any element of the name or the name as a whole likely to offend a significant number of people?". If the answer to a given question is "yes", then revision (or further documentation) of the submission is necessary. If it is "no", one proceeds to the next question. One proceeds through name and armoury examination separately, but in a parallel manner.
Field tests of this check list indicated that novice herald with only a single heraldic reference (Boutell, Fox-Davis, the old West Kingdom Heralds' Handbook) could reliably duplicate the final Laurel ruling on better than 90% of the submissions considered where conflict was not the sole reason for return. Since a large majority of submissions returned below the Laurel level are for non-conflict reasons, this significant improvement in performance (from about 35% with the old rules and the same reference) is striking.
This "check list" (complete with boxes and cross links to the rules) has been generated using Pagemaker and an LED printer and was originally going to be attached to this report. However at the Symposium, but it was suggested at the Symposium that it be revised to use separate pages for names and armoury so they could be put on the reverse sides of several Kingdoms' submission forms and this seemed such a good idea that we started tearing them apart and could not get them done in time for the meeting. (Yes, in case you are wondering, we did do a flow chart and that will also be available to compulsively computerized heralds...)
4. "Access to Sources" will also be provided in the direct mailing. As part of the mailing we will distribute several annotated bibliographies of basic useful resources for local heralds. These will include a listing of general name and armorial references suitable for local heralds' use which are available in most libraries (together with their Dewey and LOC number). We shall also have a listing of standard heraldic name and armorial resources available at relatively low cost from chain book stores and mail order vendors like Barnes & Noble or Publisher's Clearinghouse (together with usual prices and catalogue numbers, if applicable). A third listing will give SCA specific resources which are still available, with their cost and the means of acquiring them.
Since a large proportion of local heralds do not appear to know of the existence of very basic resources which would assist them (in a number of Kingdoms, even senior heralds do not have basic paperback references), this is a vital part of the program. We have been attempting to educate people and distribute this information on the "trickle down" level and the Holus Herald has had hardly a nibble. It is time to act forcefully.
5. Maintenance of the availability of "the information packet" on a long-term basis. Updated bibliographies together with the rules will be made available at cost (possibly below, if we can get it funded, or at bulk rates) to all Kingdoms with strong injunctions that these be provided to each new local herald as he or she takes office. We all know that resources do not always last in local files (sometimes in Kingdom files!) and part of the problem with the rules and other information in the past has been that it has been lost and we depended on the initiative of the local to get the information. That cannot continue...
6. Active program of education on a regular basis aimed at the populace and local heralds through TI. Laurel will be writing a quarterly "column" for TI, as has the Steward and the Marshal in the recent past. These columns will focus on generally applicable topics of general interest and will be used as a primary means of explaining what is going on in the heraldry in general and submissions processing in particular. (Although topics already slated include titles including alternate titles, heraldic display, etc.) Laurel has spoken with the Society Chronicler and hopes that this can start with the Winter issue of TI.
Other senior heralds will be encouraged to generate "accessible" heraldic articles for TI. Laurel considers it mildly scandalous that one of the more recent heraldic articles was her own Sigillography article which was picked up from Symposium Proceedings. Since both the current Chronicler and TI editor are more sympathetic to heraldry in general than several of their predecessors this situation may improve.
7. "Access to sources" through a heraldic pamphlet series. The original intent of the Free Trumpet Press was a heraldic pamphlet series, although this got somewhat derailed by events. Now that the Armorial and Ordinary have been handed over to "Free Trumpet West", the resources can be devoted to the original goal which was production of accessible, inexpensive heraldic resources geared to the needs of the local and regional herald in particular.
Free Trumpet has approximately $1800 in the kitty and can begin production without need to raise special funds. Laurel would like to make one of the first projects available, Master Wilhelm's "names book" split up into geographically oriented fascicles which would be less expensive to produce (we do not have enough money to do this in one volume: it is big!!!!), more affordable for local heralds and would not involve so many technical difficulties. This has been discussed with Master Wilhelm who is currently considering the issue and I hope to have a response soon. Whether or not he consents, other early publications will include a pamphlet from Laurel on "Philosophy of titles in the Society" with a new and improved list of alternate titles (we hoped for this by Pennsic but mundane job pressures may prevent this) and a volume on heraldic dress and on heraldic display (possibly as separate volumes). Hoped for future volumes will include translations of several period heraldic texts of interest to Society heralds, comparisons of ceremonials and court traditions in the ??? Kingdoms and (we hope) a history of heraldry in the Society with contributions by several sources.
These are obviously only the immediate steps to be taken over the next few months in a process of downward focus that has been too long denied. Laurel is firmly convinced that it can work: the roadblock in the past has been inertia or dedication to the status quo of just plain laziness on the part of senior heralds in each Kingdom. With these measures we are cutting the Gordian Knot, much as Laurel cut it when she assumed the position of Brigantia and immediately removed the regional heralds from direct function in submissions processing (i.e., submissions came directly from locals to the Brigantia Office). This was a simple step, a radical step and one which aroused a lot of skepticism amongst "old time heralds" in the East. It very rapidly proved its worth and the momentary disruption that resulted from a change of decision making focus.
We have every hope that once the initial steps have been taken the pool of those who feel themselves competent and willing to hold heraldic office will expand rapidly in many areas which have seen little new blood (or little training) in years. Once the initial steps have been taken, we can move on to long-term projects such as active expansion of inter-Kingdom heraldic educational programs (e.g., joint workshops, heraldic gatherings at inter-kingdom events other than Pennsic and Estrella, etc.), fostering of internal commenting links in Kingdoms which do not have them, the long-awaited heraldic bulletin board with on-line research facilities (suggested by one Alisoun MacCoul in 1981 and still not available for those in remote areas), inter-kingdom rosters of heraldic staffs willing to do research in large libraries for those who have no such access, etc.
At the beginning, it was noted that the real workload crunch is within the Kingdoms and the turnover of staff there is also the greatest. This is undoubtedly true. We feel confident that much of this can be alleviated by shifting more of the work downward. This does not mean by taking away categories of work to do (e.g., conflict checking) but making the bulk of the work easier and more pleasant for someone who is not a fanatic to pursue. If this can be done, eventually the benefits will be felt even in the College of Arms and the Laurel Office as there is less stress, less explanation required, less hostility encountered on the part of those who do not know as clearly as those who have studied it for years what we are trying to do.
Laurel would not venture to offer these proposals as a panacea for all that is wrong with heraldry in the Society. That would be ludicrous. However, we do feel that the goals and the means to attain these goals are realistic. We feel that they will go farther toward addressing the underlying problems of Society heraldry in the basic areas of accessibility and comprehensibility than any "showy" band-aid such as the limitation of mundane conflict. We feel that the issue of "heraldic space" has been adequately addressed by the rules modifications and the effective diminution of difference and that more proposed submissions will be registered under the College's proposals than would be the case under the Board's original proposal. What is more, we feel that this approach to the resolution of the problem manages to retain the traditions of the Society while optimizing the possibilities for growth and advancement at the local level which is the heart of the Society. We hope the Board agrees.