Project Management and Legos

Emmet isn’t an expert in anything. But he is a planner and coordinator; the submarine shows what happens when a project is poorly planned.

Recently, my husband and I have had multiple conversations about project management, what it does and why it is important. Some of it is driven by curiosity on his side because I recently started a Udemy course on Project Management for the CompTia Project+ certification. But some of it is also from real questions; things like whether a software product like Liquid Planner would make Project Managers obsolete (Hint: They won’t).

This week I am on the road, and in my first night at the hotel I decided to relax with a movie after the journey rather than crack open the PMBOK and log in to my course. I turned on the TV to discover The Lego Movie had just started. Well, that was my night sorted! I settled into my room for a relaxing evening full of giggles and snark before commencing with the demands of a travel work week.

I’m sure it’s because I had Project Management on the brain, but as I watched the movie it began to dawn on me…Emmet Brickowski has the hallmarks of a Project Manager!

Emmet Brickowski

Don’t worry Emmet, Project Management isn’t that bad….

OK, hear me out here. In the movie, Emmet is a construction worker and is completely forgettable. In fact, when Good Cop/Bad Cop interviews his co-workers after Emmet manages to attach the Piece of Resistance firmly to his back, none of his co-workers can tell them anything about him at all. Throughout the movie and in Emmet’s own words, he follows the examples set for him in order to do the work that needs to be done.

Fast forward to Cloud Cuckoo Land, where Emmet and his new crew find themselves under attack by the forces of President Business, who blast Cloud Cuckoo Land apart. As they are escaping, the group of Master Builders (SME’s) hatches the brilliant idea to build a submarine to escape into the water beneath the cloud. What follows is exactly what you would expect when a group of SME’s get together to build something:

Wyldstyle: We could build a submarine!
Batman: A BAT submarine…patent pending.
Unikitty: …with rainbows!
Vitruvius: …and dreamcatchers in case we take a nap!
Benny: Like an underwater spaceship!
Emmet: But you can’t build all of them at once….
Master Builders: Ready?  Break!!
Emmet: Uh…OK.

What happens next is completely predictable.

The submarine winds up not only being an ugly piece of equipment…it doesn’t even work! They aren’t underwater for more than a few minutes before the pressure of the water blows the poorly-constructed submarine apart.

Later in the movie, Emmet saves the day by getting the group of Master Builders to work towards a common goal; to follow the instructions for once instead of letting their own strengths rule the entire project. The project in this case being to put the cap back on the Kragle, which is the weapon President Business is going to use to destroy their world.

Emmet isn’t an expert in anything. He doesn’t become a Master Builder until the end of the movie. But he is a planner and coordinator; the submarine shows what happens when a project is poorly planned. To storm President Businesses’ tower and stop the destruction of the their world (The Project), Emmet creates a Project Plan, including coordinating with stakeholders (The Master Builders), assigning roles, creating scope and timelines for the project and taking on a general oversight role. He also ensures that deliverables (Speakers for the Taco) are done on time and where they need to be. This time, the plan works much better than the submarine, and they achieve their goals after a few comedic hiccups along the way.

There is a lot more to being a Project Manager, but I still see a message from the film: to accomplish your goals you don’t just need geniuses or creative people or SME’s…you need coordination, communication and oversight to drive it all. You need someone to keep an eye on the big picture. You need Emmet. If that’s not a project manager, I’m not sure what is!

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