Making Work Workable: The Work Breakdown Structure

In project planning– the most important part of project management– defining the work that needs to be done and all its various components is perhaps the most important part. This is crucial in making sure that you will correctly estimate the time and resources necessary to get the project completed, as well as inform the various decision points you need to make in the course of project management.

Work: The Sum Of Its Parts
There are two ways to look at any project– holistically and by component. The first way– looking at a project as a whole is necessary because you will need to envision the end goal or result. The latter, on the other hand, ensures the completeness of the finished project– no loose ends, no tasks left undone, no delays caused by backtracking on the tasks on the critical path schedule.

Defining the work requires accurately describing each and every task that needs to be accomplished in the course of finishing the work. One of the biggest errors project managers make at this stage of the project planning is underestimating time and resource requirements just because key components of the tasks have been left unidentified. To avoid this, project managers must learn to adopt a detail-oriented mindset. This is not always easy.

Why You Need A Work Breakdown Structure
The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) gives you an organized approach to identifying the necessary components of work required to finish a project right in the planning stage for better resource and time allocation, critical path mapping and other project management strategies and methodologies you need to employ. What the work breakdown structure does is make the kind of detailed thinking required to identify tasks and estimate timelines as well as resource requirements easier.

Other benefits to having a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is that it makes it easier to pinpoint control points and task milestones, and provides a visual aid in presenting and explaining project structure, scope and costs to approving bodies.

Breaking Down The Work
The biggest benefit to doing the WBS or Work Breakdown Structure is practically self-explanatory– it breaks down pieces of work into smaller components for easier manageability.

While different people and organizations use different terms and visual representations in the creation of their WBS, breaking down the work is fairly easy. The top level, of course, is the entire project, and under it, the major components (level 1) of the work are defined. These are also sometimes called phases, work package, deliverables and similar, depending on organizational terminology.

These Level 1 major components are further broken down into smaller chunks (level 2 components). These are sometimes called subdeliverables, tasks or whatnot. Determining how far to breakdown the work is determined in different ways, some create rules about minimum and maximum time allotted for the component chunks.

While other project managers only apply the WBS to relatively large projects, it is also recommended for medium-scale and small-scale projects. Whether it is building an industrial complex, designing computer programs, organizing events or decorating your office, a WBS is a very useful tool to ensure more efficient project planning and better results!

Leave a Reply