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The aim of the lego exercise is to understand the key steps of method study. In the exercise, MBA students assemble the blocks with different colors on a plastic base according to the requirement indicated on the worksheet.

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While the capability of individual employees shall not be ignored, the productivity of modern enterprises is getting more and more dependent on the management art.   Frederick Windlow Taylor, the author of The Principles of scientific management, clearly indicated the key points of operation management - “the planning and execution of work tasks should be separated, management taking responsibility for determining the most effective methods, establishing a measurement of the resulting work content, and providing the necessary equipment and training to allow the workers to employ them effectively (Ronnie McMillan, 2002, p142)”.  

Scientific management, developed by Taylor in 1911, is a widely used approach for job design.  The approach includes two elements: method study – concentrating on determining the most effective and efficient method, and work measurement – measuring the time for completing a task at defined level of performance.  This essay will introduce the block-structure assembly, a job design exercise for method study.  Furthermore, how jobs are designed for PABX installation projects in Nortel Networks, the organization I worked for, will be reflected and compared with Taylor’s theory.

Account of the Block-structure Assembly Exercise

The aim of the lego exercise is to understand the key steps of method study.  In the exercise, MBA students assemble the blocks with different colors on a plastic base according to the requirement indicated on the worksheet.

...read more.


Install all modules by repeating step 3.

It took only 59” for the final method to finish the task.  Therefore, this method seems to be the best one among those methods we had tried.

Critique of the Block-structure Assembly Exercise

The lego exercise reflects the essence of method study.  It is obvious that through several circles of “Record – Examine – Develop”, the method for assembling blocks was gradually improved.   There are several points worth further consideration.

First, while group work (iteration 3) in this exercise does not seem to be the most efficient method, it is crucial in practical work for mass production.  As discussed above, the reasonable time required by the group work method, which includes two operators in our case, should be half of other methods with one operator.  Since pre-composing “RWRWR” required more time than fixing modules and blocks on the base, the operator in charge of the later work often had to wait for the “RWRWR” modules.  This factor, together with the difference of the operators’ skills, impeded the speed of the group work method.  In practice, mass production and complexity of products decide that a complicated job should be divided into several steps completed by different workers.  By effective work arrangement, the overall efficiency of a team can be maximized.  

Second, it is hard to compare the effectiveness of two methods if the operator is not equally familiar with them.

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The theory of scientific management provides significant guides for job design.  The six steps of method study, SREDIM, compose a standard process for people to find out effective and efficient methods for completing tasks.  Qualified job designs should meet three requirements: technical feasibility, economic feasibility and behavioral feasibility.  In practice, while it is correct to follow the theory in designing jobs, flexibility is necessary as well.  Sometimes, changes of the operation procedure that are beneficial to one department may be negative to other departments.  For example, in the Nortel case, although pre-programming common data in factory reduced the time for on site installation, it increased the burden of manufacture department.  In this situation, cooperation and trade-off are indispensable.  The final solution should maximize the overall interest of an organization rather than that of a single department.  Like many other management issues, the best job design solution is the one that adapts to the specific circumstances of organizations.  

Appendix 1

TASK:    Option 11C PABX Installation (100 Extension Lines)


Project Manager

Hardware Engineer(s)

Software Engineer(s)


Project meeting with customers

Circuit card check

Fix cabinets and grounding


Cabling and install circuit cards

Connect cabinets by optic firber


Hardware testing

Prepare programing document

Fill in project document(hardware)

CDB, route, trunk programing


Feature programing


Extension programming

Software testing


Integrated system testing

Prepare handover document

User training


Handover system to customers

Project report to department mgr

Standby on site


  1. Ronnie McMillan, Tom Mullen (1999), Operations Management, The University of Strathclyde, GSB. P142
  2. Slack, Nigel. (2001), Operations management, Financial Times Prentice Hall
  3. Hill Terry, (2000), Operations management, Macmillan Business
  4. Krajewski, Lee J, (1999), Operations management : strategy and analysis, Addison Wesley

...read more.

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