WBS – Healthcare Projects

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

A key part of a good healthcare project plan is the work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS for Healthcare Projects specifies the work assignment for every person working on the project.  It also specifies the deliverables the customer or sponsor will get. And it provides checkpoints for the organization’s management to track the project’s performance.

WBS – Healthcare Projects: Step One

Creating a good WBS – Healthcare Projects starts with defining the scope and major deliverables of the project with administrators, physicians and other caregivers.  Then you decompose or breakdown each of those deliverables into smaller deliverables until you get to the level of an individual assignment. When you break down the project scope into deliverables, you specify the end result you want from each assignment. That is not a list of what you want the assigned team member to do. As an example, you would not describe everything an ICU nurse on your team must do to create a new procedure. Instead, you would state that the ICU nurse must deliver a set of procedures that pass inspection by the state Department of Health. That is a measurable deliverable with an acceptance criteria that is crystal clear. When you define every assignment in the healthcare project WBS as a measurable deliverable, you clearly define the work assignments for every caregiver, technician, administrator and any outside consultants working on the project. The assignments or tasks in your WBS define exactly what a good job is for each assignment and how you will measure it.  WBS – Work Breakdown Structure – Main Page


WBS Work Breakdown Structure

WBS – Healthcare Projects: Step Two

The WBS also shows the methodology you will use on the project to produce the required deliverables. The WBS of a project that uses a waterfall methodology will be very different from a project that uses a design-build methodology. In the waterfall methodology project, you will complete very detailed front end planning before the team starts work. On a project that uses a design-build methodology, the team will begin work on the deliverables before all the plans are finished. If you use an agile methodology for the project, you will complete the deliverables iteratively with a great deal of interaction with the caregivers and administrators at every step. The WBS will include time for them to assess the results and change the specifications. That project’s WBS will look very different from a WBS using one of the other methodologies.Healthcare Project WBS

WBS – Healthcare Projects: Step Three

The healthcare project WBS must specify the testing and quality control procedures you will utilize at various checkpoints in the project. Some of the checkpoints may be the testing of equipment against manufacturer or regulator specifications. Other checkpoints may be a governmental comparison of what you have developed to the approved regulations and requirements.

WBS – Healthcare Projects: Step Four

If you know who will be working on your project, it is a good practice to give the team members an opportunity to talk about the acceptance criteria for the deliverables they will be producing. Allowing team members to take part in defining the healthcare project WBS entries and their acceptance criteria gives you two benefits. First, it sets up the estimating process so your team members become familiar with the tasks they’ll be asked to estimate. Second, their participation also gives you the benefit of the team members’ experience with similar projects. That’s an opportunity for you and the team to identify problems very early in the process.

WBS – Healthcare Projects: Summary

The aim of the WBS is to

  • give team members clear assignments that are deliverables
  • communicate the methodology you’ll use to produce the deliverables
  • specify the acceptance criteria for quality control and testing
  • provide management with checkpoints for tracking progress.

This sample lecture from our Healthcare Project Basics course focuses on developing a healthcare project WBS. The goal of the WBS is to give crystal-clear assignments to people working on the project and give management clear checkpoints on progress. It also provides a good basis for you, the project manager, to track project progress and do variance analysis.


To learn more about designing a good WBS for healthcare projects, consider taking one of our online healthcare project management courses. You’ll learn at your pace with an expert healthcare project manager as your coach.

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