How to create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

A well-crafted Work Breakdown Structure can be invaluable on a project. Follow this short step-by-step guide on how to create a basic Work Breakdown Structure for your next project.

I create a WBS as soon as possible, preferably while the sales team is still busy proposing the solution to a client. Using the approach I recommend below, the WBS clearly depicts the deliverables the project will produce, and the activities required to create those deliverables. This benefits everybody from your internal team members, to the customer and other vendors involved on your project. If the teams can visualize the actual deliverables, and how we are going to get there, we are one step closer to project success.

However, any WBS structure will not do. Creating a shopping list of 100’s of activities is just plain stupid. I have done this before and you end up spending all day trying to keep your schedule up-to-date instead of managing the team. A WBS should be kept simple, but have sufficient detail to provide accurate cost and schedule information.

So, how do we do this? Decompose a WBS by starting with your phases, then deliverables, then activities. Add milestones, throw in a splash of colour, and that’s it!

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Download the sample Microsoft Project schedule for a basic WBS

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