Jun 15, 2011

Top 3 Mistakes We Make in WBS

...which we should avoid.

Work Breakdown Structure is one of the most important document that we, project managers, develop during planning phase of a project. It is such a vital document that, to me, no project can be planned, scheduled and led without having this document. Though there has been lot of talk about using PBS (Project Breakdown Structure) instead of WBS, great percentage of project managers still use WBS while others use it as a further extension of a PBS. Anyways that will lead us to another topic, what I want to cover today are the mistakes that 'we' (project managers) make while creating WBS and which we should really avoid.

1. WBS is my task list. 
No, its not! Task or activity list is a further elaboration of each 'work' in WBS. WBS is a high-level breakdown of work that you plan to do during project life cycle. You can break down the work functionally, phase-wise, business-wise or on the basis of whatever parameter you set - BUT you should not break it down to the individual task level (which will be assigned to team member). Elaboration of WBS and creating activity list is next step after developing a WBS.

2. I don't need WBS dictionary.
Well you do. Your team and other stakeholders need dictionary to understand what each 'work' means in a WBS. against what-you-were-supposed-to-do. Don't let this misconception take any value in front of you that dictionary is a redundant document and WBS should be self-explanatory.  WBS and WBS dictionary are essential to each other to create any value to the project.

3. I will trace projects by activities, not WBS
Traceability embedded within a WBS is essential. Numbering scheme is simple way of achieving this. The number should eventually go down to activity list and schedule plan. 

Above are top three mistakes that literally kill the purpose of WBS. For reading further on common mistakes in creating WBS, check out following links:

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