2 Ways to Create Work Breakdown Structure

work breakdown structure

What is Work Breakdown Structure?

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is one of the most misused term in Project Management. It can mean different things to different professionals. The meaning could be Organization Chart, Bar Chart (popularly known as Gantt Chart) or Roles & Responsibilities Chart. It is important to define WBS before we proceed further.

Work Breakdown Structure is a tool to represent Project and Product Scope. A formal definition of WBS would be.

WBS is deliverable oriented hierarchical decomposition of total scope of work.

You can also look Max Wideman’s Glossary for few other definitions of Work Breakdown Structure. Before you further, you should read some of my other articles on WBS.

2 Popular Ways to Create Work Breakdown Structure

Pictorial Method

In pictorial method WBS looks like an Organization Chart. It is a reverse tree like structure. Each descending node of WBS represents a component of higher level node. Pictorial method is useful in following situations:

  • Presenting to Customer, Sponsor or Senior Management.
  • Gaining formal approval of Project Scope definition.
  • Getting commitments from various Stakeholders.
  • Analysing Project and Product Scope at a higher level.
  • Assigning Accountabilities.

Example of Pictorial Method

Work Breakdown Structure

Outine Method

In Outline method looks WBS looks like an List of items. It has items and sub-items. Each smaller item of WBS represents a component of of higher level item. Outline method is useful in following situations:

  • Gaining commitments from the Project Team.
  • Decompose the Work into activities.
  • Analysing Project Components at a lower level.
  • Assigning individual responsibilities to Project Team members.
  • Regular Monitoring and Control.

Example of Outline Method

  • Project Andromeda
    • Phase Jupiter
      • lo
      • Callisto
      • Europa
    • Phase Saturn
    • Phase Uranus

The above example is using the same components as used in the example of Pictorial method.

Which is the best Method?

One method is not superior to the other method. Both the methods have their own application. It is sometimes useful to prepare WBS using both the methods.

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Praveen Malik, PMP

​Praveen Malik ​is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) with a rich 23+ years of experience. He is a leading Project Management Instructor, Coach and ​Advisor. He ​has successfully trained thousands of aspirants for the PM certification exams.

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