Building a WBS - Questions?

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Categories: Advice

Situation: You're building a WBS and need a quick audit of what you're doing.


Project Headway tasks offer a lot of guidance in managing your projects.  One popular feature of the process is "Questions you ask of yourself and others" within each task in the process. Define Work Breakdown Structure guides you through building a WBS for your project.  These are the questions we've come up with for that task.  Please let us know if you feel they are helpful and/or what's missing.


When defining your WBS, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What type of WBS has been used on previous projects?
  • Has the larger team been included in the development of the WBS?
  • Do the activities at the lowest level result in a tangible work product?
  • Is there tight integration within the branches of the WBS? Are the activities and deliverables related?
  • Can the cost, schedule and resource needs be effectively estimated?
  • Is it defined at a level that you can confidently and effectively manage at?
  • Can you turn the WBS into a manageable project schedule?
  • Have required deliverable review and approval cycles been included?
  • Have transitional and transformational activities been included?
  • Have the lessons learned from previous projects been reviewed for possible impacts on the plan or approach to this project? 

Ask a trusted colleague or a key team member the same questions.

Posted on: January 23, 2013 05:11 PM | Permalink

Comments (13)

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I like your article Dave, very much the information that I needed right now, very timely :)

- Have you included the inputs of all known stakeholders?
- Have you considered the entire lifecycle of the product, from initial conception through development, operations, maintenance and support through deactivation and disposal?

Dave: Great stuff here. I would suggest that you include another important contribution of the WBS: Does the WBS clearly define the project's scope? It must include the whole scope, but no more. It is often a great means of visualizing the scope footprint early on, and is a great brainstorming tool as the team, and often the stakeholders, get their arms around where the boundaries lie.


You are right. If the PMs follow these suggestions to even some extent, their WBSs can become much useful and clear. In my experience, in a large project, WBS elements are produced by different groups and it takes careful review by the respective groups and then the integration PMs to make sure that there are no surprises when the schedule is built.

Jiju (Jay) Nair


It''s a good reason to archive successful projects- being able to pull up a WBS from a previous, similar (and successful) project can help boost your new initiative's chance of success, as well as simplifying project planning a great deal.



upravljanje projektima
I agree this is a good article and WBS is ground for every project. Good questions for defining WBS.


I am an advocate of the WBS and have always included them in my projects.

But to play devil's advocate in today's world - where does the WBS fit in an Agile project? If you want to start some fireworks, tell your scrum master to give you a WBS.


Dave , Such a nice article that shows the importance and significance of WBS which is detail oriented , covering the entire project scope and not too complex to work on . This is the key contributor If time allows to make this in such a detailed fashion.

@ Harlan : In comparison to the agile , WBS Can be divided into summary modules / feature list that can be used as user stories (But this needs a bit of careful judgement of WBS with respect to the user stories) .

thanks alot of learning in this site very things

do u can send for me article new article and knowledge about project managment????

Application of WBS approach is highly effective way to run any project in terms of costs and deadlines. That’s why proper selection of tool capable to deal with deep decomposition of issues is crtically important.

If you’re looking for such tool, draw your attention to askcow –

Its power and usability are astonishing and significantly reduce costs on planning and communication.

Have a nice day.


An additional question I would ask is:

  • Does the first level of your WBS make sense?

The question seems somewhat simplistic but if you muck up the first level, the rest of the WBS will be difficult to define and confusing for all stakeholders to understand. Take the time to define the first level. Think of it like completing the outer edge of a puzzle, once it''s complete, the rest of the puzzle almost fills itself in-almost.


These are all great suggestions - thank you!

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