What is WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) in Project Management?

What is WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) ?

WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) helps you to manage and control your project more efficiently by breaking work down into manageable units. To create a WBS, you use a process of decomposition. During decomposition, you break your project into progressively smaller pieces until you are able to identify the smallest units of work that must be done. The smallest units of work are called “work packages”.

With decomposition technique, you can identify all the deliverables to be completed. Work Breakdown Structure includes all the work we you need to do to complete the project, it means you are not going to put effort on the work that is not included in WBS. In other words, the work not in the Work Breakdown Structure, are not the part of the project.

The main purpose of decomposition is making sure the Work Breakdown Structure contains all the deliverables and that work packages are manageable. But on the other hand, if you break work packages and activities down too far, you may be wasting time and effort. But how do you make sure that work packages are sufficiently broken down? In order to estimate the durations of work packages, expert recommends to use the 8/80 rule. According to this rule, work package duration should be within defined limits, typically between 8 and 80 hours of work. If a work package will take less than 8 hours, it means you have broken the deliverable down too far. If it will take more than 80 hours, then it needs to be decomposed further into work packages.

Some rules for creating a WBS

Work Breakdown Structure doesn’t show any dependencies between work packages. In addition to this, work packages can be listed in any order.

WBS contributes to better communication. It helps get the teams buy-in because they directly involve in creation effort.

You and your team need the requirements document, project scope statement, and organizational process assets to create the WBS.

WBS, Work breakdown structure, Project Management, PMP Preparation

The inputs for the WBS come from other processes

In Work Breakdown Structure, you need to know that each work package consist of “nouns” instead of “verbs”. This is because the names in the WBS tell you what should be achieved, not how it should be achieved.

During project life cycle, although you finished your WBS study, you may come back to it in order to reflect the changes on your project.

A unique identification code is assigned to every work/component of in Work Breakdown Structure, so it helps keep track of the work.

Steps for Creating a WBS

  1. Project name goes at the top of Work Breakdown Structure.
  2. The hierarchy can be created by starting with the largest work groupings of the project, known as the major components or Level 1 and breaking them into progressive smaller tasks.
  3. Assign unique identification code to each WBS components
  4. Stop when decomposition is sufficient by using 8/80 rule
  5. The lowest level of WBS, called “work packages” should provide enough detail to estimate effort, cost and duration
Create the work breakdown structure

Create the work breakdown structure

WBS Example:

WBS Sample

Tree view WBS Example

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