The Work Breakdown Structure

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The WBS has been a fixture of project management for many years. [31 The WBS is simply the organizing structure of the entire scope of the project. There is one organizing rule that governs overall: if an item is on the WBS, then that item is within the scope of the project; if an item is not on the WBS, then that item is out of scope of the project. The WBS identifies the deliverables and activities that are within the scope of the project.

The WBS is most typically shown as an ordered hierarchical list, or equivalent chart or diagram, of project deliverables. By their nature, hierarchies have levels. A higher level is an abstract of all the levels below it and connected to it. For emphasis, let us term this concept the "completeness rule" for WBSs: to wit, an element at a higher level is defined by all of, but only all of, the lower level elements that connect to it. For example, "bicycle" is an abstract of lower level items such as frame, handlebar, seat, wheels, etc. all related to and connected to "bicycle," but on the other hand "bicycle" consists of only lower level items such as frame, handlebar, seat, wheels, etc. all related to and connected to "bicycle."

At the highest level of the WBS is simply "Project," an abstract of everything in the project. Typically, "Project" is called level 1. At the next level is the first identification of distinct deliverables, and subsequent levels reveal even more detail. The next level is called level 2. Of course alpha characters could also be used, or alpha and numeric characters could be combined to distinctly identify levels and elements of the WBS. A couple of schemes are given in Figure 3-3.

Wbs Numbering
Figure 3-3: WBS Numbering Schemes.

Deliverables are typically tangible, measurable, or otherwise recognizable results of project activity. In short, deliverables are the project "nouns." The project nouns are what are left when the project is complete and the team has gone on to other things. Of course, materiel items that make up an item, like nuts and bolts, are typically not identified as deliverables themselves. Following this line of thinking, project activities (for example, design, construction, coding, painting, assembling, and so forth) are transitory and not themselves deliverables. However, the project activities required to obtain the deliverables are identified and organized by the scoping process. Activities are the actions of the project process; activities are the project "verbs. " The syntax of the WBS is then straightforward: associate with the "nouns" the necessary "verbs" required to satisfy the project scope.

Apart from showing major phases or rolling waves, the WBS is blind to time. t5] In fact, a useful way to think of the WBS is that it is the deliverables on the schedule all viewed in present time. It follows that all nouns and verbs on the WBS must be found in the project schedule, arranged in the same hierarchy, but with all the time-dependent durations and dependencies shown.

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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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