The Project Manager’s Guide to Work Breakdown Structure

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A work breakdown structure (WBS) is something that every project manager should know about. However, it is much more difficult than most project managers realize.
This article will explain what a work breakdown is and give you an overview of the WBS to help you support a successful project. You’ll learn:
What is Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), and how can it be used?
Important WBS Definitions
Why is a Work Breakdown Structure Important
WBS vs Gantt Chart
WBS vs The Critical Path Method
Best Practices for Work Breakdown Structure
6 Tips to Create a Good WBS
How to Create a WBS
WBS Example
What is the Work Breakdown Structure?
The work breakdown structure (WBS), is a chart that lists the deliverables and components of a project. It’s used to give clarity on what the project must deliver. It is one type of resource planning visualization project managers often use.
The WBS is a structure that organizes the work of a team into manageable chunks. The hierarchy usually has two to four levels. It explains exactly what will be delivered at the conclusion of the project and how these deliverables relate to each other.
Illustration of a work breakdown structure. The Sixth Edition of PMBOK guide defines a work breakdown structure:
“The WBS is a hierarchical breakdown of the total scope work that must be done by the project team in order to achieve the project objectives and produce the required deliverables. The WBS organizes the project’s scope and represents the work in the current approved project scope statement.
Many project managers are aware that things can go wrong in a project for many reasons. However, the most common reason a project will fail is a poorly documented or nonexistent WBS.
The authors of Applying the Work Breakdown Structure to Project Management Lifecycle confirm this:
“A poorly designed WBS can lead to adverse project outcomes, including repeated, repeated project re-plans or extensions, unclear work assignments or scope creep or unmanageable frequently changing scope, budget underruns, missed deadlines and unusable new product or delivered features.
It is worth noting that WBS can be created in two ways. One, with deliverables like we have described above. The other, with phases. The most common WBS type is the deliverables oriented WBS. It is also known as Entity Oriented Noun Oriented and a Product Oriented WBS. Phase-oriented WBS focuses on the tasks that are required to complete the deliverables. This can also be called Activity or Task-Oriented or Verb Oriented WBS.
Important WBS definitions
Before we get into the details, I want to briefly explain some terms I will be using in this article.
Work Breakdown Structure: A collection of components that are deliverable-oriented. The WBS doesn’t include work that isn’t included in the project. The WBS’s purpose is to organize and define project scope.
Progressive Elaboration is the process of continually improving and detailing a plan as new information becomes available. Simply put, working with what you have.
Critical Path: The sequence that determines how long it takes to complete a task. This article explains project management methods in more detail.
Deliverable: A tangible, intangible product or service that is produced as a result a project and is intended to be delivered (internal or external) to a customer.
Project Management Plan: This plan outlines how the project will operate, be examined, and be controlled.
Why is a work break structure important?
The WBS defines what the

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