Work Breakdown Structure
What is a Work Breakdown Structure?
A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a hierarchical diagram that breaks a project down into manageable ‘chunks’ from:
- its big parts (e.g. phases)
- to smaller parts (e.g. deliverables)
- to the smallest parts (e.g. tasks – the unique packages of work that, together, make up a deliverable).
What is the purpose of a Work Breakdown Structure?
A WBS, created during the planning phase of a project, enables a Project Manager to manage a project more efficiently to achieve project objectives. It displays the various components that make up the project, and, importantly, how they interrelate. It shows the inter-dependencies (for example, ‘this work component is a part of that deliverable’).
What are the components of a Work Breakdown Structure?
A good WBS has these components:
- 100% – it must contain 100% of the work required for the project to be completed
- Documented – Work Breakdown Structure clearly defines each component to enable costing and time durations.
- Phases –The 3-6 large stages of a project which helps to segment the Work Breakdown Structure.
- 80 hour – suggests that no single component of the work structure should take more than 80 hours to complete.
- Components/Tasks – how they interrelate. WBS shows the inter-dependencies (for example, ‘this work component is a part of that deliverable’).
What is a Work Breakdown Structure like?
A Work Breakdown Structure is like when someone prepares for making a decorative cake. (Below is an example)
- Define Project: only baking for this type of cake, not a roast, and not some other type of cake.
- Major Phases: is to group the tasks (e.g. buy ingredients, acquire appliances, complete clean-up) together under the major phases of making a decorative cake (Buying ingredients/kitchen equipment, Pre-mixing, Baking, Decorating, Clean-up).
- 100% from Start to Finish: This is means that all tasks are identified to complete the whole process of baking a cake. From your first thought of baking a cake where you have to buy ingredients and gain access to a kitchen right through to leaving the kitchen very clean and presenting the cake to your client/friend.
- Documented: Many cake recipes are documented and include; Titles, Subsets, dot points, lists and glossary of terms or abbreviations. Also includes very short statements about each task or step. The recipe states the associated equipment needed to successfully bake and decorate the cake
- Components/Tasks: Each step or task is defined and concise. If the step is too general or too large, then it is broken down further to ensure that the task is clearly defined and understood by the user/operator/you. (e.g. 3.0 Baking the cake – 3.1 Pre-heat the oven 180°; 3.2 Place cake on middle shelf; 3.3 Bake for 60minutes; 3.4 Test if cake is cooked by sticking knife into top; 3.5 Remove cake from oven and pan and place on cooling rack; 3.6 Turn off the oven and clean oven.)
- Outline Numbering: This helps to identify the Major Phases and the subsets of each Phase. The outline numbering should follow a time line pattern where Number 1.0 should be the first activity of the project (e.g. purchase ingredients for the cake) and where the last Number (e.g. 6.0) should be last activity associated with the project (e.g. 6.0 Give the cake to the client/friend).
When do businesses typically develop a Work Breakdown Structure?
Typically a Work Breakdown Structure comes about during the early planning stage of a project . A Work Breakdown Structure is used to ensure the success of a project. It is designed to capture 100% of all tasks and to help identify to a lower level all the requirements to complete all the tasks (e.g. it helps determine what needs to be acquired like materials, tools and facilities, it also helps determine the nature of each task and determine if extra skilful people need to be employed for the tasks. It also helps towards determining the time frame for each task which can then be allocated into a Gantt chart to work out the timings for the entire project.
Where can I find more information about of a Work Breakdown Structure?