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Defining your Work Breakdown Structure

As you set out on your project, you will likely have a high level view of what you believe needs to be done to deliver your project. However, what you need next is to break this down into feasible blocks of work which can in turn be further broken down until you generate a collection of work elements that need to be completed to deliver the project – a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

To develop your WBS, you will need to:

Step 1: Write down the big blocks of work that need to be done for you to complete your project.

Step 2: Take each of the blocks STEP 1 and break it down further – keep breaking it down until you get to tasks which can be assigned to and completed by a person or small team. Continue doing this for each of the blocks of work.

Note: In a real WBS, we would probably have more levels than are depicted above.

Step 3:
 Once you completed STEP 2, you now have a “WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE (WBS)” for your project. Follow a simple numbering scheme. At the top of the structure we have the overall project. Beneath this, we have blocks of work which we number 1 through n. Beneath each block, we have further blocks of work or task which we number again following the same sequence. The result should look as below:

You have just created a “Work Breakdown Structure” for your project(we will call is WBS from now on). The principle is easy. However, finding the most appropriate breakdown structure for your project will depend on a lot of factors. For example, will you need to outsource any of the work. If so, it will need to be clearly delineated. Will funding be released in stages and hence the work needs to be released in similar stages? If so, you need to show this in your WBS.

Now that you have a WBS, this will act as an input to your estimation process, resourcing plan, scheduling, milestone definition and budget. The WBS definition is a key element of project planning and definition and you need to make sure that you include the correct people in it’s development.

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