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A Work Breakdown Structure Guide

written by: Lucinda Watrous • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 10/17/2009

Need help with the Work Breakdown Structure? This is the place to start. We'll help you learn about the WBS with a one-stop place for all the content on the channel about Work Breakdown Structures.

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    What is the Work Breakdown Structure?

    The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a very important document for the success of any project.This document presents a complete list of tasks required for an entire project from start to finish. A WBS is a graphical hierarchical representation of the project at hand. It often serves as a tool for everyone on the project team to use frequently to check progress, create to-do lists, and more. With that said though, it is important to remember the Work Breakdown Structure is not simply a to-do list, and should be treated in higher regard as such.

    Take a look at Ann Gordon's article, What is a Work Breakdown Structure? to find out more about what the document is.

    This article, The Role of the WBS in the Project Lifecyle Explained will assist in understanding exactly where the work breakdown structure fits into the overall project, and will provide examples of both the project life cycle and the work break down structure.

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    Creating the Work Breakdown Structure

    There are several different ways to create a work breakdown structure. One may elect to create it with:

    • a graphic design program
    • an office program
    • a project management program.

    Regardless of the method used to create it, Ann Gordon continues to offer help with the work breakdown structure with her article, How to Build a Work Breakdown Structure.

    When building the work breakdown structure, the project manager must keep in mind the project scope so the WBS stays in line with the project and indeed helps it. If the WBS is not centered around the project scope, issues could arise later. Once a project is underway things become unclear as the project moves through the life cycle, and gets closer to being finished. For help with making sure the WBS is built around the project scope with clarity in mind, check out this article: Create Clarity in Your Project with WBS and Scope Definitions. Also, take a look at Work Breakdown Structure Pitfalls to Avoid.

    For help with work breakdown structures in Project 2007, check out Deanna's article: Defining the WBS

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    Why Use the Work Breakdown Structure?

    The work breakdown structure when used correctly, can help simplify the entire project process and provide a great point of reference for everyone. This is why it is important to understand what the document is, how to create it, and how to use it. Any project without a work breakdown structure faces senseless stresses.

    For more information on Project Mangement, check out the Project Mangement Glossary, by Deanna. This is a PDF file containing the terms and definitions from the article itself.