How to Explain Project Management to Grade 1

Project management is like creating a plan to build a lego set in stages with different teams building the separate parts.

Project Management

Today I am going to try to explain project management to my kid’s class of Grade 1 students. This is part of their social studies class and I am sure you could only imagine a few fields more boring that project management (at least for kids, I love my job). I have been preparing for three weeks and I feel stressed out, because these brilliant young kids ask tough questions. Like, for example, why did I pick this job, what I like the most and so on.

I remember when I started preparing the presentation, I had the idea to actually publish the outcome as a post. I am not expecting that any of you is actually a six-year-old, but I hope that you will enjoy the story that I have prepared for them.

By the end of the article, I hope that you will have a framework for simplifying future similar conversations. Ana go-to resource for sharing more information about projects, milestones, reports, and testing with your children.

Project Management: Overview

It is very easy to define project management in the simplest way – the activity of managing projects. But this is where, at least in the heads of the six-year-olds, questions start popping out.

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.

Albert Einstein

My overall strategy was to link project management to something unexpected but familiar – like building a complex lego set. Below, I will show you the material which I prepared in anticipation of these questions.

What is a project?

A project is like building a complex lego set. For example, a lego set which has hundreds of pieces and can be reasonably-well divided into stages (e.g., floors of a building). By doing the stages separated and in parallel, you will be able to speed up the whole process.

Each project has the following parts:

  • Charter is the description of the project – “Build the Avengers Tower lego set”.
  • Scope is the effort we need to make – “In our case 685 pieces”
  • Timeline is the time we have – “Before lunch, because there is something really important you need to do after that”.
  • Cost is the time and effort spent building it – “2 people for 2 hours”.
  • Plan is how you are going to make it.

Note: I am hoping to get the attention of the kids here by making the topic relatable to their everyday life.

What is a project plan?

A plan consists of the project charter (e.g., build the Avengers Tower lego set with 3 people before lunch), the resources you need (e.g., space, instructions, people), and milestones (i.e., finalizing each of the stages). The most important part of the project plan are the human resources. A human resource is the people we need to complete the project.

Examples of people resources:

  • A person. One person can build the entire lego set. This is slower.
  • A group of people. You can have 685 people, each holding one piece. Note: I am hoping to get a good laugh here.
  • A team. Dedicated teams can build the different stages of the project.

What is a project team?

A project team is a group of people with different roles who work on one stage of a project as specified in the project plan. If we are building a lego set, we can have the following roles:

  • Sorter – sorts the pieces by colour.
  • Instructions reader – looks at the instructions.
  • Builder – builds the lego set.

What is a project milestone?

If you have a project with 5 teams and each of these teams works on one stage of a lego set, then completing each stage is a milestone. Milestones are important, because sometimes you need to finish them in sequence. For example, if you are building a lego set with five floors, you cannot attach floor 3 to floor 1. You need to attach floor 2 to floor 1 first. This is what we call a dependency – milestone 2 (completing floor 2), depends on milestone 1 (completing floor 1).

What is testing in the project management world?

Testing is when somebody outside the team verifies what the team have done. This is how you catch bugs (problems in the milestone which prevent it from being complete). A milestone is done when it passes the testing. A project is done when it passes the end-to-end testing (testing of all milestones).

Note: I have a nice slide here with a “bug” (I forgot to attach the bodies of two lego people), but I will play it as though it is tested, hoping that kids will spot the problem.

What is a project report?

Project report is where you say how much of the work is completed, what is remaining, and if you are going to be ready on time or not.

What is a program?

A program is a set of related projects. For example, building multiple lego sets. You manage each of them as a project.

Six steps of project management

One action

If we cannot inspire our own kids to listen about our jobs, how can we motivate ourselves to grow, learn more, and improve. My one action for you is – think about your job and how you can explain it to a child.

Next steps

What are the next steps?

If you have liked my article, please proceed to my contact page, where you can view various ways to contact me.


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