Credit: John Sterman

Teaching Resources Library

Operations Management

Operations Management

Organizational Culture

Project Management Simulation


John Sterman, Burak Gozluklu


Projects are chronically late, over-budget, and fail to meet quality standards and customer requirements.  The MIT Sloan Project Management Simulation is a realistic, interactive system dynamics “management flight simulator” in which participants play the role of project managers for a complex project.  Users can select projects calibrated for a new consumer product, software, or construction project, and registered facilitators can customize the simulation to other settings.  Participants strive to meet customer requirements with high quality, while completing the project on time and on budget.  Each simulated week participants make decisions including project schedule, staffing for each project phase, whether to accept late customer feature requests or reduce scope, whether to alter the degree of concurrent development, and whether to pressure the workforce for faster progress or higher quality.  Participants receive detailed feedback on progress, current and projected costs, productivity, rework detection, a host of other key performance indicators, along with emails from simulated leaders in the organization’s engineering, quality assurance, human resources, and marketing departments—and the Chief Executive Officer.  The simulation has been used by thousands of people, from undergraduates to seasoned project managers and executives.


The simulation provides an opportunity for participants to experience the dynamics of complex projects firsthand, enabling them to learn about project planning, budgeting, and scheduling—and about the impacts of unplanned events such as late customer specification changes, changes in worker productivity, and the discovery of problems requiring rework.  Participants learn about the feedback processes that can lead to poor outcomes, including productivity and quality decline from failure to account for errors and rework and resulting unplanned hiring, fatigue, employee turnover, work done out of sequence, and corner cutting in project work, quality assurance, and testing. 


Project management, operations management, industrial engineering, engineering, software development, systems thinking, dynamic modeling, and any course or executive program addressing the dynamics of projects in domains including software, hardware, construction, and others.


System dynamics to understand and improve the performance of complex projects.


Corporate trainers, consultants, and educators from non-academic institutions can now access our simulations directly from our simulation partner, Forio, here.