A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is the best way to
understand the detailed work of the project when you have to build a schedule
from scratch. It's used to break the project down into the major phases,
deliverables, and work components that will be built by the project. These work
components can then be broken down into the activities that are required to
build them. The WBS is not the same as the final schedule (which requires
sequencing, resources, estimated effort, estimated duration, etc.)
Use the following five tips when building your work
Create a WBS dictionary for large projects
Normally you wouldn't need a WBS dictionary, but if your WBS has hundreds (or thousands) of detailed
activities, there may just be too much to keep track of by hand. In this case, it
might make sense to place all of the important information in a WBS dictionary.
The dictionary helps keep track of all of the summary and detailed activities,
including a short description, the WBS
numeric identifier (1.1, 1.1.1, 1.1.2, etc.) and the estimated effort. If you
enter your WBS dictionary into a specialized tool, the tool can also help to
keep track of changes to the WBS as well.
Use the summary activities as milestones
Your WBS should
contain both detail and summary activities. (A summary activity is one that is
broken down further. A detailed activity is one that is not broken down
further.) Although a schedule usually includes only detailed activities, it makes
sense to include the summary activities as milestones (markers signifying that
a deliverable or set of deliverables is complete). A summary activity can be
used as a milestone since it would indicate that all of the underlying detailed
work has been completed.
Break activities into two or more detailed activities.
I've seen teams that break one activity in the WBS into only
one activity at the next level. In my opinion, this doesn't make sense because
then the detailed activity represents the same work as the prior summary
activity. This doesn't buy you anything.
Make the final detailed activities action oriented
The detailed activities on your WBS
(the ones that are not broken down further) are ultimately moved to your
schedule. For that reason, it's easier if the detailed activities in your WBS are action oriented – just as activities in
your schedule would be. For example instead of describing a detailed WBS activity as ""meeting," you should
state it as "schedule a weekly meeting." Instead of having a WBS detailed activity for "Testing Plan,"
you should state it instead as "Create Testing Plan." In this way,
the detailed activities can be moved to the schedule with a minimum of wording
Don't place requirements on the WBS
If you place a deliverable on your WBS,
you can break this deliverable down into the activities that are required to
create it. You don't break a deliverable down into the requirements that
describe it. Requirements do not belong on a WBS.
Only deliverables and activities belong on the WBS.
Using these techniques will save you time and rework on your