Friday, November 25, 2011

The WBS Basics

In the WBS, use nouns for deliverables and work packages;  use verbs to name tasks.

-          Danu M. Kothari, Managing Successful IT Projects with the basic “Tools of the Trade,” PMI ISSIG Webinar, July 20, 2006

I have talked about TheTask and Deliverables.  We now have the background to drill into the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).  The WBS is 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.  It organizes and defines the total scope of the project.”  (PMBoK v4, p452).  Other than being a circular definition, this is consistent with what I said in “Deliverables as Revenue Agents.”  The stars of this definition are “hierarchical” and “deliverables.”   “Decomposition” and “scope” are supporting cast members.
Since Deliverables define the total scope, the structure starts like this:

Project WBS Example

·         Deliverable 1

·         Deliverable 2

·         Deliverable 3

We now have a decomposition of the total scope for a three deliverable project.  Is this a WBS?  No, the work (each Deliverable) has to be decomposed to the lowest level of work.  As I described in The Task, that level of decomposition is the task.  A well-formed task has one owner and one work product.  We can now show our example project structure as:

Project WBS Example

·         Deliverable 1

o   D1 Task 1

o   D1 Task 2

·         Deliverable 2

o   D2 Task 1

·         Deliverable 3

o   D3 Task 1

o   D3 Task n

This, in fact, is a simple well-formed WBS.  It has a hierarchical structure, is decomposed to the individual task, all tasks are contained within deliverables, and the deliverables (and tasks) define the total project scope.
In my next post, we’ll build on this foundation to explore variations on the basic WBS structure.

Are you ready for more advanced WBS concepts?

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