International Project Management Day




Planning and Scheduling: Task Identification and Work Breakdown


Quick Summary
This guideline covers the steps for developing a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to identify all the activities required to complete a project. Several WBS examples are provided. First in a series—see the Related Templates below for the others.


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What this is

First of a series of guidelines for project plan and schedule development. This guideline covers the steps for developing a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to identify all the activities that must be executed to fulfill the objectives of the project. Several WBS examples are provided.


Why it's useful

A key to successful project scheduling is to identify all the work of the project before you consider delivery dates and resource constraints. This helps a team objectively identify everything that needs to be done without subconsciously leaving out real work in order to fit pre-determined dates.

The WBS step helps accomplish the following key objectives:

  • Develops an objective, rational view of the amount of work required
  • Helps team grasp the skills required and amount of resources required for the project
  • Provides a clear framework for assigning to individuals a clear task definition and delegate the responsibility for completion
  • Lays a foundation for analyzing the task dependencies and for isolating and managing risks
  • Lays a foundation for developing a bottom-up estimate for the Project Plan

How to use it

  1. Review the overview and steps for creating a Work Breakdown Structure.
  2. Identify how team members will be involved in creating the WBS and educate them on their role. The primary objective is to get all of the team participants to contribute to the definition of the work.
  3. Decide how you'll record the items in your WBS (e.g., worksheet, spreadsheet, scheduling tool). See the table on the last page of this file for one example of a worksheet. This format can be carried forward into the next few steps of scheduling to systematically build the pieces of the schedule (resource assignments, estimates, etc.) onto the foundation of the WBS items.
  4. Determine an appropriate organization for your WBS and begin identifying major work efforts. See the detailed guidelines in this file for ways your WBS can be organized.
  5. Break the top level of your WBS further into a hierarchical set of activities. Use the guidelines to decide how far your WBS must be broken down to ensure that you've defined enough detail for scheduling your project.

The WBS is the basis for all the next steps in the planning and scheduling process.


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Related Templates
Planning and Scheduling: Assigning Resources
Guidelines on identifying resources needed for each item in a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), including a sample tracking worksheet. Second in a series.

Planning and Scheduling: Identifying Dependencies
How to identify and capture dependencies in a work breakdown structure (WBS). Third in a series

Planning and Scheduling: Estimating Work and Costs
Guidelines on estimating effort, duration, and costs for items in the work breakdown structure (WBS). Fourth in a series

Planning and Scheduling: Project Schedule and Critical Path
Guidelines on scheduling activities to perform on WBS tasks in order to arrive at an integrated schedule in calendar time. Fifth in a series.

Planning and Scheduling: Make Trade-offs and Optimize
Guidelines for making trade-offs and optimizing the first-pass base schedule, to address conflicts among the scope, time, and resources/costs. Sixth in a series.

Planning and Scheduling: Create Project Plan Document
Guidelines for creating a project plan document providing project essentials like objectives, justification, and how the objectives are to be achieved, and describing how the project will be managed. Seventh in a series.



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