As part of their project management course, students on the International MBA program in Paris were asked to deconstruct and then rebuild a “summer palace” made of 82 Lego bricks. The objective of the assignment from Professor Stefan Creemers was to highlight the importance of incorporating uncertainty into project management.
Working in teams of two, students were asked to estimate how quickly they could construct the palace, before actually building it. The final construction was then inspected according to the original specifications.
“The exercise highlighted that mistakes are easily made and risks can be forgotten (for example building errors or inspectors that are very strict) when there is time pressure,” explains Prof. Creemers. “In reality, the duration of projects is generally uncertain, so it is crucial that all project managers understand the basics of probability theory.”
“Since 2014, more than 1000 teams have completed this task so I can demonstrate to students how historical data can be used to help plan and predict the time a project will take. However, in many real life cases project managers may not have such historical data as projects are unique. Therefore, I show them how to use a monte carlo simulation (a method used to model the probability of different outcomes in a process) to create graphs of the predicted completion time of a project. All in all, this is a good way of using Lego to lay the foundations of project management!”