Coordination of objectives

• Control (including contract administration)

The upper three levels of the WBS are normally specified by the customer (if part of an RFP/RFQ) as the summary levels for reporting purposes. The lower levels are generated by the contractor for in-house control. Each level serves a vital purpose: Level 1 is generally used for the authorization and release of all work, budgets are prepared at level 2, and schedules are prepared at level 3. Certain characteristics can now be generalized for these levels:

• The top three levels of the WBS reflect integrated efforts and should not be related to one specific department. Effort required by departments or sections should be defined in subtasks and work packages.

• The summation of all elements in one level must be the sum of all work in the next lower level.

• Each element of work should be assigned to one and only one level of effort. For example, the construction of the foundation of a house should be included in one project (or task), not extended over two or three. (At level 5, the work packages should be identifiable and homogeneous.)

• The level at which the project is managed is generally called the work package level. Actually, the work package can exist at any level below level one.

FIGURE 11-2. Work breakdown structure for objective control and evaluation. Source: Paul Mali, Managing by Objectives (New York: Wiley, 1972), p. 163. Copyright © 1972 by John Wiley & Sons. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

• The WBS must be accompanied by a description of the scope of effort required, or else only those individuals who issue the WBS will have a complete understanding of what work has to be accomplished. It is common practice to reproduce the customer's statement of work as the description for the WBS.

• It is often the best policy for the project manager, regardless of his technical expertise, to allow all of the line managers to assess the risks in the SOW. After all, the line managers are usually the recognized experts in the organization.

Project managers normally manage at the top three levels of the WBS and prefer to provide status reports to management at these levels also. Some companies are trying to standardize reporting to management by requiring the top three levels of the WBS to be the same for every project, the only differences being in levels 4-6. For companies with a great deal of similarity among projects, this approach has merit. For most companies, however, the differences between projects make it almost impossible to standardize the top levels of the WBS.

The work package is the critical level for managing a work breakdown structure, as shown in Figure 11-3. However, it is possible that the actual management of the work packages is supervised and performed by the line managers with status reporting provided to the project manager at higher levels of the WBS.

Work packages are natural subdivisions of cost accounts and constitute the basic building blocks used by the contractor in planning, controlling, and measuring contract performance. A work package is simply a low-level task or job assignment. It describes the work to be accomplished by a specific performing organization or a group of cost centers and serves as a vehicle for monitoring and reporting progress of work. Documents that authorize and assign work to a performing organization are designated by various names throughout industry. "Work package" is the generic term used in the criteria to identify discrete tasks that have definable end results. Ideal work packages are 80 hours and 2-4 weeks. However, this may not be possible on large projects.

It is not necessary that work package documentation contain complete, stand-alone descriptions. Supplemental documentation may augment the work package descriptions. However, the work package descriptions must permit cost account managers and work package supervisors to understand and clearly distinguish one work package effort from another. In the review of work package documentation, it may be necessary to obtain explanations from personnel routinely involved in the work, rather than requiring the work package descriptions to be completely self-explanatory.

Short-term work packages may help evaluate accomplishments. Work packages should be natural subdivisions of effort planned according to the way the work will be done. However, when work packages are relatively short, little or no assessment of work-in-process is required and the evaluation of status is possible mainly on the basis of work package completions. The longer the work packages, the more difficult and subjective the work-in-process assessment becomes unless the packages are subdivided by objective indicators such as discrete milestones with preassigned budget values or completion percentages.

In setting up the work breakdown structure, tasks should:

• Have clearly defined start and end dates

• Be usable as a communications tool in which results can be compared with expectations

• Be estimated on a "total" time duration, not when the task must start or end

• Be structured so that a minimum of project office control and documentation (i.e., forms) is necessary

For large projects, planning will be time phased at the work package level of the WBS. The work package has the following characteristics:

• Represents units of work at the level where the work is performed

• Clearly distinguishes one work package from all others assigned to a single functional group

• Contains clearly defined start and end dates that are representative of physical accomplishment o o

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… 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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