Identifying and breaking down the work to be done is the logical starting point in the entire planning process. The objective of this step is to identify relatively small, specific pieces of work. (For simplicity, let's refer to them as activities.) Once you've identified all of the activities required to execute the project, you're ready to create a complete project plan. You'll be able to estimate activity durations and prepare your schedule, estimate activity costs and prepare your project budget, assign responsibility, and carry out many more planning steps.
But what exactly does a work breakdown structure look like and how do you create one?
Let's say I'm planning on hosting a birthday party in my back yard. As most people would tend to do intuitively, I begin by recognizing that there are a number of large "chunks" of work (also called subgroups) to be done. I'll have to do some planning. I'll need to make sure I properly feed everyone. I'm sure I'll need supplies of some sort, such as tables and chairs, paper plates, and so forth. I'll also have to set up for the party and clean up after the party is over. I've already begun subdividing the work to be done. Figure 7-1 shows my WBS so far.
The key at this point is to verify, as well as possible, that I've identified all major categories of work that constitute the project. In other words, every element of work required for my party will fit into one of these five subgroups. Since I believe this is the case, I can proceed to the next level of detail.
I begin by considering everything I'll need to do regarding Setup. I realize that I'll have to clean the pool and set up the volleyball net. I'll also have to make the yard presentable. I'll have to put up the party tent, bring out tables and chairs, and so forth. It occurs to me that there seem to be natural groupings of activities here, related to games and entertainment, to cleaning, and to furniture. These are the groupings that I will use for this level, as shown in Figure 7-2.
I reflect on these three categories and feel confident that everything that I have to do to set up for the party can be placed in one of these three buckets. However, I don't feel as if I've broken down the work far enough yet. Set Up—Games and Entertainment, for example, is just not specific enough. As I ask myself questions such as "What games?," "How much time will it take?" and "What do I have to do to pull this off?" I realize I need to go to one more level of detail. When I've eventually identified these activities, I feel confident that I know what I have to do to set up for the party (Figure 7-3).
I continue this same thought process until I've developed my entire WBS to the appropriate level of detail.
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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.