Work Breakdown Structure

Once the scope of the project is defined, the next step is to decompose the scope of the project into a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The steps involved in developing the work breakdown structure are as follows;

  • Decompose the scope of work into a Product Breakdown Structure (PBS)
  • Super-impose the Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) with the work required to be performed to build that component of the product of the project to arrive at the Work Breakdown Structure.

High level WBS

WBS decomposed further

  • The lowest level in the WBS is known as the work packages
  • There is a general rule of thumb which states that work packages should contain work which can be completed between 8 hours and 80 hours. We call it as the 8-80 rule. For smaller projects, the affinity of the work packages will be towards 8 hours and for large projects the affinity of the work packages must be towards 80 hours. For very large projects, one may have work packages bigger than 80 hours chunks of work.
  • Work package sizing is very important for the effective monitoring and controlling of projects. For very small projects if we have very large work packages, there will not be any status change for a very long time interval where as if for large projects if we have very small work packages, then we end up doing micro management.
  • Every work package is supplemented with a WBS dictionary, which contains;
    • Description of the work to be performed
    • Successors and predecessors
    • Quality standards to be followed
    • Reference to engineering drawings etc
  • The WBS should cover the entire scope of the project. We call this as the 100 percent rule. The scope which is not captured in the WBS will not be there in the final product.

WBS can be represented as a tree structure or as a list structure

Tree structure

List structure

WBS dictionary

Once the WBS is approved, the WBS along with the scope document will become the scope baseline of the project. The basis for all further estimates will be based on the WBS.