Project Management

[ Project Management Topics ]

Work Breakdown Structure

Work Breakdown Structure

In order to see how the work actually breaks down into units and individual pieces of work to be performed you will want to create a work breakdown structure as noted in the Scope portion of our discussions.

A project can be thought of as "a microcosm or a macrocosm. At any level int eh breakdown structure, from the standpoitn of the manager in charge of a particular part of a project, there is a separate project that he or she is responsible for. All projects are part of some larger proejct and all projects have subprojects within them. It is just a matter of perspective." (Newell, 26) Good project management techniques will work on any size project or program. The tools and methodologies are similar on all projects.

Discussion point: In what ways are tools and methodologies similar on all projects?

Work Breakdown Structure Defined

As an output from scope definition you you should also end up with a work breakdown structure. A work breakdown structure is a deliverable oriented grouping of project elements, usually in chart format, that organizes and defines the total work scope of the project. Each descending level represents an increasingly detailed definition of the project work. Work not in the WBS is outside the scope of the project. The lowest level in a WBS may be referred to as a work package, work element, or phase.

It is not a "To Do" list of every possible thing we can think of that needs to be done in the project. Rather it is the assignments we will hold members of the project team accountable for delivering.

In order to see how the work actually breaks down into units and individual pieces of work to be performed you will want to create a work breakdown structure. As Newell notes, "the work breakdown structure is the most central item in the project plan." (Newell, 2002, p. 25) A work breakdown structure is defined as "a deliverable-oriented grouping of project elements that organizes and defines the total work scope of the project. Each descending level represents an increasingly detailed definition of the project work." (Project Management Institute, 2000, p. 209) You keep breaking the project down until the desired level of detail is reached. This level is called the work package level. A work package can be broken down further by the project team members involved into activities, but the work package itself is the lowest level that the project manager needs to be able to manage all aspects of the project (including costs, human resource allocation, quality, and the like).

The sample WBS below was taken from http://www.nnh.com/ev/wbs2.html

Diagram

Creating a WBS is a simple task. Basically you break your project down into sub-projects, and then just keep breaking each level down until you get to your desired level of detail. You may elect to have multiple WBS charts organized in different ways (such as by functional unit, by task, or by phase) however if you do, make sure the information communicated is the same in all diagrams.

Some sample work breadown structures can be found at: