Work Breakdown Structures & Project Management

Work Breakdown Structures Connect TeamsA work breakdown structure (WBS) is an essential ingredient of successful project management. Though effective for any sized project, it is especially useful when working with a team. It transforms a project’s vision into smaller pieces that can be assigned to various team members. It also shows how these smaller projects relate to each other.

This post will discuss what a work breakdown structure looks like, reasons to use them, and how to make one with Microsoft Word.

What a WBS Looks Like

Quite simply, a work breakdown structure looks like this:

Bahamas Vacation

1. Air Travel

1.1. Shop for the best price
1.2. Book departure and return flights
1.3. Setup transportation to the airport

2. Hotel Accommodations

2.1. Research available hotels
2.2. Book stay

3. Packing

3.1. Choose attire
3.2. Pack suitcases

As you can see, the project “Bahamas Vacation,” is first broken into three (3) main sub-projects: Air Travel, Hotel Accommodations, and Packing. These sub-projects are then broken into smaller, work packages. If you were planning this trip with a friend, these work packages could be shared easily.

Reasons to Use a WBS

  • Increases Chances for Success

    The most compelling reason to use a work breakdown structure is it makes you think about a project before getting started. They help develop your overall concept, uncover potential problems before they happen, and communicate the project’s goals.

  • Documents Change

    Once a project is underway, it’s important to document change. A work breakdown structure allows you to add new items as they occur which creates a historical reference for future projects.

  • Improves Estimating & Scheduling

    The smaller the work package, the more confident a team member can be with their time estimates. This is helpful when trying to set an accurate deadline.

How to Make a WBS

To create a work breakdown structure in Word, just open a new document and select “Format” from the file menu. Then select “Bullets and Numbering”.

Creating a Work Breakdown Structure

Select the “Outline Numbered” tab and select the third option from the left.

Selecting the Correct Bullet List Style

That’s it.

So the next time you take on a big project, or any project, think about creating a WBS. I promise that the time you spend up front will save you more time later.

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2 Responses to “Work Breakdown Structures & Project Management”

  1. Thomas says:

    The WBS is typically referred to as a Work Breakdown Structure (not a Sheet). Also, the title is not usually numbered, but instead, each of the deliverables are numbered 1, 2, 3, and so on. Regardless, you have the right idea.

  2. Brian says:

    ::slaps forehead:: You’re right! I went back to a book, “The Art of Project Management” by Scott Berkun, scanned the index, and tada… you are right!

    Thanks for the comment. As you may have noticed, I’ve applied your revisions.

    Thanks again Thomas!

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