Work Breakdown Structure, WBS Chart and Project Management WBS

Work Breakdown Structure, WBS, Term Definition

Work breakdown structure, WBS, is a project management technique initially developed by the US Defense Establishment, which deconstructs a project with the intent to identify the deliverables required to complete the project. The project management work breakdown structure, WBS, is utilized at the beginning of the project to define the scope, estimate costs and organize Gantt schedules.

Work breakdown structure, WBS, captures all the elements of a project in an organized fashion. Breaking down large, complex projects into smaller project pieces provides a better framework for organizing and managing the project. WBS can facilitate resource allocation, task assignment, responsibilities, measurement and control of the project.

The project management work breakdown structure, WBS, is utilized at the beginning of the project to define the scope, estimate costs and organize Gantt schedules. In the project management WBS it is important that the project is not broken down into too much detail as that can lead to micro management. Conversely, too little detail can result in tasks that are too large to manage effectively. Work breakdown structure, WBS, can be presented in a tabular list, an indented task list as part of a Gantt chart or in a hierarchical tree. More often the work breakdown structure, WBS is listed in a hierarchical tree that captures deliverables and tasks needed to achieve project completion.

Create and display projects using a work breakdown structure chart

There are multiple ways that a project can be broken down so it is possible to have more than one project management WBS. For example, the project might be broken down by phase, function or discipline. Thus, if you were planning an Award Banquet, you might have a WBS chart for Logistics, which included site/room, equipment, decorations, etc. You could have a separate WBS chart for Speakers, which included Identify and Invite, Transportation, Lodging, etc. Each “work package” has logical elements grouped together.

The work breakdown structure, WBS, can be used to identify tasks in project planning models such as the Critical Path Method (CPM), or Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). Both CPM and PERT model the activities and events of a project as a network. The first step in these project planning models is to specify the individual activities. The work breakdown structure, WBS, can be used to make a listing of activities in the projects, which can then be used as a foundation to add other information in the other steps of the project management model.

Area of Application
Project Management
Workforce Management
Organization Breakdown Structure

Related Terms
Organization Breakdown Structure

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