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A Guide For Work Breakdown Structure in Project Management (For Successful Projects)


Work breakdown structure by the name implies breaking work down into parts but it doesn’t actually involve breaking down work; rather breaking down deliverables. Breakdown structures are used widely in project management. It lets you plan, manage, and evaluate large projects. Project management is a big game in all industries and poor project management is a big reason for project failure. 

A good project plan provides the following:

  • A roadmap for the team
  • Project timescale
  • The requirements
  • Validation of the estimated cost
  • Identifying any obstacles
  • Sign of expected  problems

What is a Work Breakdown Structure?

Work breakdown structure (WBS) is a method that splits a project down into a hierarchy of deliverables, tasks, and subtasks. PMBOK says about the work breakdown structure.

“A deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables”

All-in-all — “A work breakdown structure defines all the things a project needs to accomplish, organize into multiple levels, and display graphically.”  It defines the “what” of the project. Let’s have a look at a work breakdown structure example of a project divided into smaller, more manageable components.

Project title: Seminar


Speakers                             Venue    Marketing     Registration 

Send invite                      Budget               Flyers           Register application 

Discuss topics                Theme             Social media campaign   Send confirmation

Backup for not 

showing up                         Location       Send email reminders 

                                              Audio/visual setup

A well managed WBS aids in scheduling, estimating costs, and determining risk. WBS helps eliminate unnecessary work to get the required results. The deliverable can be an object, a service, or an activity. It’s a simple yet methodical way of organizing your project scope in smaller, manageable components.

Don’t let poor project management become a barrier to your success. Start using ProofHub.

Why Use a WBS in Project Management?

Before discussing why let’s know what is a work breakdown structure in project management? 

It’s simple. The work breakdown structure in project management visually defines manageable chunks of a project that a team can understand, as each part of the work breakdown structure gives further detail.  

The goal of WBS in project management is to make a large project manageable. It helps you to:

  • Develop a schedule
  • Determine the cost of the project
  • Set dependencies
  • Write a statement of work 
  • Assign responsibilities and clarify roles
  • Track the progress of a project

Project work breakdown structures are often used by project managers and teams to identify potential risks in a given project. As the project is divided into branches, if there is any branch that is not defined up to the mark, it represents a scope definition risk. Such risks should be reviewed as the project executes. As the work breakdown structure is integrated with an organizational breakdown structure, the project manager will be able to identify the communication points and develop a plan for the whole project. Also, in such cases like the falling behind of a project, by referring to WBS will help to quickly identify the major deliverables that will be affected by a late sub-deliverable. 

Work Breakdown Structure vs Project Schedule vs Project Plan

Work Breakdown Structure vs Project Schedule vs Project Plan

The difference between the work breakdown structure, project schedule, and project plan is a common confusion. 

  • Work breakdown structure describes the “what” of the project. It doesn’t include timelines or resources. 
  • A project schedule is the “what”, “when”, and “who” of the project includes the project’s deliverables as well as their deadlines and resource requirements. 
  • A project plan includes details on how the project will be executed, managed, and controlled covering every aspect of the project. 

The project plan is followed by the project schedule and then the work breakdown structure. 

How to Create a Work breakdown structure

In a project, planning and doing is an important part. And creating a WBS is where both are met. It is like making a flowchart that breaks all of the deliverables down into the tasks that need to be done to tick off the project. The visualization of the tasks in the WBS makes sure you’re accounting for every task as you plan your project out.

As you create a work breakdown structure, here are some rules;

  • According to a 100% rule developed by Gregory T. Haugan, a WBS should include 100% of the work that has to be done to complete the deliverables excluding any work that is particularly not defined in the scope of the project (unrelated work). Be specific, be thorough!
  • Do not include any amount of work twice. This will violate the 100% rule and will result in miscalculations.
  • Focus on deliverables rather than actions. 
  • The work package should take no less than eight hours of effort, but no more than 80. In other words, if you report on your work every 30 days, a work package should take no more than a month to complete. 

To understand how to create a work breakdown structure in a better way, here are the steps that everyone should understand. 

  1. Step one: Determine the major deliverable to be produced.

“What major final products must be produced to achieve the project’s objectives?”

  1. Step two: Identify the most important pieces of scope.

Is there a need of budget report for any project? You’ll be much at ease when you know already about how you are going to do the project. 

  1. Step three: Divide each of these work pieces into its component parts.

“What deliverables you should have to complete a part of the project?”

  1. Step Four: Identify the known attributes for each activity.

Project budget needs to be carefully created. Teams may choose to move ahead with executing project activities. 

Key elements of Work Breakdown Structure

Key elements of Work Breakdown Structure

  • Finding which individual is responsible for each piece of work
  • The start and end dates
  • Required resources
  • Estimated cost of the project
  • Requirements and milestones
  • Protocol for quality control

Benefits of WBS 

Benefits of work breakdown structure

There are several benefits to developing a WBS for your project.

  • All of the work to be done by the project is identified so you will be less likely to cancel any work to be done to deliver the desired results.
  • It allows for a more accurate cost and schedule estimates. 
  • Provides a basis for resource requests and task assignments as you will be able to determine the skill sets needed to complete the work.
  • Enable you to provide clear status reports on project progress

Work Breakdown Structure With ProofHub for Project Management

Project teams can use tools like whiteboard, sticky note pad,  or project management tools like ProofHub to identify major deliverables, sub-deliverables, and specific work progress. ProofHub is an easy-to-use online collaboration tool that supports work breakdown structures, project outlines, Gantt charts, and easy scheduling. 

With ProofHub’s project management software app, you can plan all your project requirements in a streamlined way to make your project perfect. Use ProofHub to create consistent project performance, improving team productivity, increasing project speed, holding team accountable and making sure no project slips through the cracks. 

 Sandeep Kashyap
Sandeep Kashyap

Sandeep Kashyap is the Founder and CEO of ProofHub — a leading project management and collaboration software. He’s one person always on a lookout for innovative ideas about filling the communication gap between groups, teams, and organizations. You’ll find him saying, "Let’s go!" instead of "Go!" many times a day. That’s what makes him write about leadership in a way people are inspired to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.

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