Work Breakdown Structure

Work Breakdown Structure


Last updated February 23, 2017


The WBS is a hierarchical sub-division of the work to be performed by the project team. What happens if you don't give it the importance it deserves?

If a project manager prepares a list of activities to be performed in the project straight after getting the approved project charter, it's a huge mistake, because a list does not allow you to clearly break the project down into small pieces. This makes it difficult for you and your team members.

What exactly is the WBS?

The WBS is a project management tool which breaks the project into smaller and more manageable pieces. It decomposes the deliverables/output into the small pieces called as work packages.

Point to be noted: The work package should be designed in such a way that you can:

  • Estimate the cost for the created work package
  • Schedule the work package
  • Monitor and control the work package

When should you create a WBS?

Ideally a project manager should create the WBS in the planning stage after collecting all the requirements for that particular project. Please note that requirement here is not only of the project but also what the stakeholders need from this project. 

 Whom to involve in creating the WBS

 As per PMI®, in creating WBS, the below-mentioned people should involve ideally:

  • Project Manager
  • Project Management team
  • Project team
  • All the identified stakeholders

The involvement of stakeholders in creating WBS is very critical and useful too.

ITTO required in the WBS:

Generally we need input as project scope statement, requirement documentation, and OPA information for creating the standard WBS. The outputs are obviously finalized WBS, WBS dictionary, and the scope baselines. Scope baselines are then monitored, verified, and controlled throughout the life-cycle of the project by the assigned project manager. And the tool used to create WBS is decomposition.

What is the WBS dictionary?

A WBS dictionary is the work/activities defined for every work package in WBS. So, if new members join your project mid-way, you can get them to refer to this dictionary so they understand their role.

When WBS can be used

  • If a new member joins your project
  • When the client or stakeholders asks for a scope change

So it's evident that the WBS is a very important tool in modern day project management. PMI® especially recommends it. The interesting thing to note down on WBS is it can be re-used again and again for several projects if the nature of the projects demands the same nature of output. If the nature of the projects is different from the current one, then also it can be used with some nominal changes. Isn’t interesting? 

Note for PMP® aspirants:

Please don’t confuse WBS with Network Diagram. The latter describes the sequence among the activities while the former only describes what work needs to be performed in each work package, without sequencing the activities.

Checkout Simplilearn's PMP Certification Training here.

PMP is a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc. 

About the Author

Chandana is working as a Senior Content Writer in and handles variety of creative writing jobs. She has done M.A. in English Literature from Gauhati University. A PRINCE2 Foundation certified, she has a unique and refreshing style of writing which can engross the readers to devour each sentence of her write-ups.


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