Breaking Down the WBS
The work breakdown structure is a critical element of the project plan, yet many project managers have difficulty creating an adequate WBS, or even understanding how it can help them. Here is an overview of what a WBS is, and the work that goes into it — you might call it a WBS of a WBS.
In my new book, Schedule Centered Planning: An Incremental Approach for Plan Driven Projects, I created a breakdown structure of what goes into a work breakdown structure — you might call it a WBS of a WBS. Below is an excerpt from the chapter on the WBS. It refers to the Schedule Centered Planning Process introduced in a previous article “Deadlines or Delusions.”
What is the WBS?
Planning begins with the Work Breakdown Structure – WBS. This is where we dissect the project to truly understand what has to be done. The WBS can be defined more formally as a deliverables-oriented, hierarchical breakdown of project scope that defines the total work to be performed. From this definition we can define its key attributes:
- The WBS focuses on deliverables — not the tasks to create them;
- It is usually presented as a hierarchy or tree diagram;
- It is a breakdown of scope into smaller pieces; and
- It must define all work.
As the Schedule Centered Planning process flow shows, the WBS is one of the key elements in your project plan.
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