The eCorporation Push
Constructing a Work Breakdown Structure
You may ask, "How small is small enough?" That varies with project type and management style, but some sort of "rule" should govern the size and scope of the smaller chunks of work. You could use a two weeks rule, where nothing is broken down any smaller than it would take two weeks to complete. You could use the 8/80 rule, where no chunk would take less than 8 hours or no longer than 80 hours to complete. Determining the chunk size "rules" can take a little practice, but in the end these rules make the WBS easier to use.
Regarding the format for WBS design, some people create tabulated tables or lists for their work breakdown structures, but most people use graphics to display the project components as a hierarchical tree structure or diagram.
What is a Work Breakdown Structure Diagram?
Information technology projects translate well into WBS diagrams, whether the project is hardware or software based. That is, the project could involve designing and building desktop computers or creating an animated computer game. Both of these examples have tasks that can be completed independently of other project tasks. When tasks in a project don't need to be completed in a linear fashion, separating the project into individual hierarchical components that can be allotted to different people usually gets the job done quicker.
Building a Desktop Computer WBS – Say your company plans to start building desktop computers. To make the work go faster, you could assign teams to the different aspects of computer building, as shown in the hierarchical diagram below. This way, one team could work on the chassis configuration while another team secured the components.
Creating an Animated Computer Game – If you are more attracted to the software side of IT, you could start a computer animation company. To assure that you get your product out the door before the competition, you could assign teams to the different aspects of writing, drawing and building animated computer games, as shown in the hierarchical diagram below. Perhaps your key programmer is also a fair artist. Rather than have him divide his time and energy by trying to do both tasks, you will realize faster results if the programmer concentrates on programming while his cousin Jenny draws the scenery.
This subject continues in the next two articles:
by Ann Gordon
On the most basic level, you decompose the project scope in order to create the work breakdown structure. This takes time in beginning, but it will save time during the life of the project and will ultimately afford the managers better control of costs and deadlines. When you use the decomposition process to create your WBS, you run less risk of adding items that are outside the project scope.
A WBS is More Than a To-Do List
A To-Do list like the one above may work for a wedding party, but in the corporate world there is much more to developing and using a WBS than simply creating an expanded list of tasks.
At the beginning of a project, the WBS can serve as a coordinating medium to secure buy-in from stakeholders, supervisors and team members. As the project progresses, the WBS can give visibility to important efforts and foster clear ownership by managers and supervisors. At project completion, the WBS can provide data for performance measurement. This is much more than a To-Do list can do.
Considerations When Building a Work Breakdown Structure
The Building Process
Creating a quality WBS can take a substantial amount of time, but is usually worth the effort because of the additional clarity it provides for project management.
Some WBS Resources
Military Standard for WBS - For a comprehensive examination of work breakdown structures, check out the complete military standard for work breakdown structures on the EverySpec website (http://www.everyspec.com). When you get to the site, just search for Work Breakdown Structures.
This subject continues in the next article:
by Ann Gordon
As you build your WBS, pay attention to details and logic and try to avoide these pitfalls, which are not listed in order of importance.
1. Not creating a WBS dictionary
2. Expecting 110%
3. Why bother with Formal Change Control?
4. Method Orientation
5. To-Do List Mentality
6. Adding Requirements
7. Skipping the Buy-In Process
8. Too Many Tasks
This concludes my three articles about WBS. I hope they helped you understand the process.
by Ann Gordon