We proudly present our Lego Resource Scheduling Wall, which we have developed in-house and which meanwhile has become a crucial project management tool for us.
The Lego Resource Scheduling Wall

What is this Lego Resource Scheduling Wall?

  • It is a physical tool for resource allocation, with staff from our development teams as “resources”. So far we use it only for two of our teams, with a separate wall for each team (the photos show only one wall).
  • It serves us as a short-term forecast (up to ten weeks into the future) of the schedule of our internal and customer projects, which mostly run in parallel and which are highly agile.
  • It visualizes the developers (rows with a Lego figure each) and days (columns). The days are grouped into calendar weeks, consisting of five working days each (beige Lego baseplates).
  • Each developer is assigned to one or two projects, visualized by a Lego brick in a certain color, on which he is supposed to work on a particular day.

Where did you get the inspiration for it?

We initially got inspiration from Special Projects, who invented the Bit Planner, which is basically the same as our Lego Resource Scheduling Wall. They definitely deserve the merit of having first used Lego for resource scheduling (as far as we know). Thanks for your inspiration guys! However, we have modified their concept in several ways. For example, we use moveable calendar weeks (32×23 Lego baseplates) instead of moveable days (7×32 Lego baseplates). And we implemented the movability of the Lego baseplates by attaching them to an ordinary whiteboard with self-adhesive magnetic tape instead of using a tailor-made solution.

What is the exact meaning of the different Lego components?

The Lego components in detail
The Lego Resource Scheduling Wall with the project legend left to it
[table nl=”~~”] Component,Meaning Colored 2×2 Lego bricks,The 2×2 Lego bricks do not indicate the amount of time a developer spends for each of the projects on a particular day. Despite their consistent size of 2×2\, there is no proportional relation to time. Also\, the order of the (two) bricks per day per developer does neither indicate the point of time during the workday when to work on a project nor any relative project priority.~~~~Besides using the 2×2 Lego bricks for visualizing the developer-day-project relation\, we also use them as a legend (the leftmost gray 16×32 Lego baseplate) that tells you which color represents which project. Furthermore\, some projects are in need of a “lead developer”\, which we indicate by placing a 2×2 Lego brick in the appropriate color next to the Lego figure of that developer. Black 2×2 Lego bricks,If a developer is absent on a certain day due to holiday\, sickness or part-time work\, we mark that with a black 2×2 Lego brick. Black 1×2 Lego bricks,They are placed on the 2×2 Lego bricks\, which means that a developer is working from remote for that project on that day. Beige and dark beige 1×2 Lego bricks,Compared to Bit Planner\, we do not use Lego tiles with letters on them for marking the weekdays (or\, in our case\, with numbers on them for marking calendar weeks). Instead\, we “encode” calendar weeks in a binary format\, which you might know from binary clocks\, just that we refer to week numbers instead of hours and minutes. The week numbers are placed on the top of each 32×32 Lego baseplate. A beige 1×2 Lego brick represents a 0\, whereas a dark beige 1×2 Lego brick represents a 1.~~~~Our motivation for doing so was of simply pragmatic nature\, as provisioning enough Lego plates with the appropriate numbers on them to cover all possible week numbers of a calendar year is intricate and unnecessarily expensive. But of course\, we are also proud of the nerdy appearance of binary-coded numbers. 2×4 Lego tiles,They are used for putting any names (projects\, customers\, developers) on the wall. For that\, we stick labels from a label printer on the tiles. Lego flags,For marking milestones we use Lego flags. They are placed on the 2×2 Lego brick related to that developer who is responsible for the activities required to accomplish the milestone (eg. the deployment of a product increment).~~~~We use either checkered flags for marking the final milestone of a project (eg. the release of a product) or white flags with optionally a label from the label printer for all other milestones. [/table]

Why using Lego for resource scheduling instead of one of the innumberable software tools for that purpose?

  • Transparency: The developers as well as anybody else in the organization can view the current schedule at first glance.
  • Usability: Everybody – even a child – knows how to handle the components of the tool.
  • Adaptability: You can quickly adapt the schedule on a daily basis, for example, during your regular stand-up meeting. (And as the schedule is supposed as a short-term forecast, it changes a lot!)
  • Functionality: You can easily extend the functionality of this tool by adding further kinds of Lego components to the wall.
  • Fun: The haptic experience of moving Lego bricks feels just better then moving rectangles in a bar chart on your screen!
  • Look: It is definitely eye-catching to visitors in the office and (not all but most) people agree that it works fine for decoration purposes as well.

What are the drawbacks compared to a software tool? And how do you handle them?

[table nl=”~~”] Drawback,Explanation,Solution Limited functionality,Even though you can easily extend the functionality of this tool\, it is limited to its present functionality due to the relatively immobile Lego bricks. You cannot quickly switch back and forth to other “views” than the developer-day-project relation\, such as a project-day-developer view\, for example. And what’s even worse\, you have to live without any functionality for automatically analyzing and adapting the schedule. You have to manually count and move bricks instead.,Certainly\, unflexibility to a certain degree is the price you have to pay. Though\, we don’t consider it as limiting us so much. Firstly\, most of our projects are actually schedule-driven. And if we need another measure\, we can still use software tools for that. (We use them anyway for long-term forecasts.)~~~~Secondly\, the short-term nature of the schedule keeps the number of bricks still small enough so that we do not have to extend our regular stand-up meetings just for the manual effort of counting or moving bricks.~~~~Furthermore\, each of our calendar weeks (32×32 Lego baseplate) is freely moveable as the baseplates are attached with self-adhesive magnetic tape. Thus\, an elapsed calendar week can quickly become the calendar week that lies the furthest in the future by moving the baseplate from the leftmost to the rightmost position\, what incredibly reduces the manual effort for moving the bricks. On-site use only,The Lego Resource Scheduling Wall is obviously adhered to the office. This is a problem when your development team is distributed or when individual team members work remotely from time to time.,Our solution for this problem is to ensure that the wall is visible in the video conferences we conduct for our stand-up meetings in the case that somebody from the team works remotely. We do not have a permant line (yet) by using a dedicated webcam for that\, but at least the wall is visible for the meetings\, during which we also move the bricks for remote workers if needed.~~~~Apparently\, there is a (non-public) mobile app that comes with Bit Planner for syncing the schedule to a virtual calendar representation by manually taking a picture of the entire Lego installation. Even though we consider that as cool\, we do not consider it as something to strive for\, as it only provides you a unidirectional sync (physical to virtual) instead of a bidirectional sync (physical to virtual and virtual to physical). And so far\, we are completely satisfied with our mere physical implementation. No confidentiality,Information about (customer) projects that are placed on a wall\, which is visible to virtually everyone who visits the office\, is not really handled confidential.,Whenever we put any text on the wall\, we do it with a tiny piece of paper from a label printer that we either put on the 2×4 Lego tiles or on the Lego flags. Thus\, we can easily remove them at any time if needed. Limited scalability,You have to purchase and install further Lego components if you want to extend the schedule more into the future\, if you want to add more developers / teams or if you want to allocate more than two projects per developer per day.,That is definitely a drawback. Because of that\, we have chosen Lego components that are available in great quantities and from several Lego dealers. (It is also the color of the components\, which has an effect on availability as well as on the price.)~~~~Further\, the limitation of max. two projects per developer per day actually is intentional. We don’t think it is a good idea to work on more than two projects at the same time as the multitasking abilities of a human being are not made for that. [/table]

Should I use it as well?

If you schedule your projects with the same developer-day-project relation in mind, then do it! And if not, you can still think about using Lego components for resource allocation, just in another but similar way. Of course, it might not completely substitute your software tools that you use for that purpose, but it certainly could be of great help for you and your team. In any case, don’t hesitate to ask us for support for creating your own Lego-based tool. We are also open to your improvement suggestions for our own Lego Resource Scheduling Wall!

5 Kommentare

  1. Hi Fabian

    Thanks so much for posting this – we’ve been inspired by it so bought all the kit to do something similar!  We want to install it on a magnetic whiteboard too but, reading reviews of magnetic tape (what has my life come to?!) we weren’t sure it would stick – have you any top tips?

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    • Hi Trev,

      Don’t worry. We actually had the same concern, but the plates are pretty lightweight. Thus, you can go with any magnetic tape that is somehow adhesive.

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  2. Hello Fabian,

    Great concept of using Lego to manage your resources, you’ve done a good job arranging the bricks, congrats!

    I am currently looking for a way to decorate our offices and had the idea of installing a Lego wall that could be used for communications purpose (creating our company’s logo or announcements). Your project is a great example of what could be done, thanks!

    I was wondering how you installed that, did you do it on your own or was helped by an art project manager or someone from Lego?

    All the best,

    Eliane.

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    • Hi Eliane,
      No, we did it without the help of anybody from Lego. In this case the art project manager was me. 🙂 We attached the plates with ordinary self-adhesive magnetic tape on an ordinary metallic whiteboard.

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  3. Very interesting and charming concept (childhood memories…). Great blog post and documentation as well, Fabian!

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