Exam Spotlight

Remember that each descending level of the WBS is a more detailed description of the project deliverables than the level above it. Each component of the WBS should be defined clearly and completely and should describe how the work of the project will be performed and controlled. Collectively, all the levels of the WBS roll up to the top so that all the work of the project is captured (and no additional work is added). According to the PMBOKĀ® Guide, this is known as the 100% rule.

There is some controversy among project managers over whether activities should be listed on the WBS. In practice, I often include activities on my work breakdown structure for small projects only because it facilitates other Planning processes later. In this case, the activities are the work package level. However, you should realize that large, complex projects do not include activities on the WBS. For the exam, remember that you will decompose activities during the Activity Definition process that I'll talk about in Chapter 4, "Creating the Project Schedule," and that activities are not part of the WBS.

The easiest way to describe the steps for creating a WBS is with an example. Let's suppose you work for a software company that publishes children's games. You're the project manager for the new Billy Bob's Bassoon game, which teaches children about music, musical rhythm, and beginning sight reading. The first box on the WBS is the project name; it appears at the top of the WBS, as shown in Figure 3.1, and is defined as WBS Level One.

The next level is the first level of decomposition and should describe the major deliverables for the project. In this example, some of the deliverables might be requirements definition, design specifications, and programming. This isn't an exhaustive list of deliverables; in practice, you would go on to place all of your major deliverables into the WBS as level-one content. For illustration purposes, just look at a slice of the WBS for this project. Refer to Figure 3.1 to see the WBS with level-one and level-two detail added.

FIGuRE 3.1 WBS level one and two

WBS Level One

WBS Level Two

Requirements Definition

Billy Bob's Bassoon

Design Specifications

Program Modules

Level-three content might be the component deliverables that are further broken out from the major deliverables of level two, or it might be products or results that contribute to the deliverable. The Billy Bob's Bassoon example shows further deliverables as level-three content. See Figure 3.2 for an illustration of the WBS so far.

figure 3.2 WBS levels one, two, and three

Large, complex projects are often composed of several subprojects that collectively make up the main project. The WBS for a project such as the Billy Bob's Bassoon game would show the subprojects as level-one detail. These subprojects' major deliverables would then be listed as level-two content, perhaps more deliverables as level three, and so on.

The goal here is to eventually break the work out to the point where the responsibility and accountability for each work package can be assigned to an organizational unit or a team of people. In Figure 3.3, I've decomposed this WBS to the fourth level to show an even finer level of deliverable detail. Remember that activities are not usually included in the WBS. An easy way to differentiate between deliverables and activities is to use nouns as the deliverable descriptors and verbs as activity descriptors (we'll talk about activities in

Chapter 4). Reaching way back to my grade-school English, I recall that a noun is a person, place, or thing. In this example, the deliverables are described using nouns. When we get to the activity list, you might use verbs like define, design, and determine to describe them.

figure 3.3 WBS levels one, two, three, and four

WBS Level Four





Module 1

Unit Test








Use Case


Module 1

System Test







You can see from these illustrations how a poorly defined scope or inadequate list of deliverables will lead to a poorly constructed WBS. Not only will this make the WBS look sickly, but the project itself will suffer and might even succumb to the dreaded premature project demise. The final cost of the project will be higher than estimated, and lots of rework (translation: late nights and weekends) will be needed to account for the missing work not listed on the WBS. You can construct a good WBS and maintain a healthy project by taking the time to document all the deliverables during the Define Scope process.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know aboutā€¦ Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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