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What is WBS?

Dick Billows, PMP

Dick Billows, PMP

What is the WBS? The WBS or work breakdown structure is a list of every task we need to complete in the project. After the project manager lists all the tasks, he or she links them with predecessors that control the sequence of the tasks. Then the PM assigns people to each task in the WBS. The resources could be people, materials, or contractors.
Next, the project manager calculates the duration of every task in the WBS and that completes the project schedule. When the project sponsor approves the schedule, the project manager saves the approved version of the schedule as the baseline. When work begins, the project manager keeps track of the progress of each task. That is the basis for status reporting and that’s how we use the WBS. Main WBS – Work Breakdown Structure Page

What is WBS: The Decomposed Project Scope

We always develop the work breakdown structure by working top-down from the scope, not by assembling a list of the things people think
must be done as part of the project. That “to do” list approach to developing the work breakdown structure yields projects that cost more money and take longer than they should. When we work top-down, we start with the scope of the project as defined by the project sponsor and we decompose it or break it into 4 to 7 high-level deliverables. Each deliverable is a metric. Then we take each of those major deliverables and break it into its components, the elements that are required to produce that deliverable. On a very large project, we may work down another level or even two, subdividing large deliverables into smaller deliverables until we get down to the level of individual assignments. That’s developing the work breakdown structure top-down.bjective, the project manager begins thwbse creation of the WBS by decomposing the scope into 4 to 7 major deliverables

What is WBS: How to Create the WBS

As you can see, the WBS is very central to the entire process of planning, scheduling and tracking a project. The best practices for developing a WBS involve these steps:

  1. After the sponsor of the project defines the scope or overall o
  2. We define each of the major deliverables by the end result. As an example, “Clean up the file room” is not a clear deliverable because we can’t measure the end result. On the other hand, a deliverable like, “98% of the books on the shelves in alphabetical order,” does define the end result in measured terms.
  3. To complete the WBS, the project manager takes each of the major deliverables and further decomposes them into smaller deliverables until they reach the right size task for an individual project team member.


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