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What Is a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)?

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a visual, hierarchical and deliverable-oriented deconstruction of a project.

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It is a helpful diagram for project managers because it allows them to break down their project scope và visualize all the tasks required khổng lồ complete their projects.

All the steps of project work are outlined in the work breakdown structure chart, which makes it an essential project planning tool. The final project deliverable, as well as the tasks & work packages associated with it rest on đứng top of the WBS diagram, và the WBS levels below subdivide the project scope to indicate the tasks, deliverables và work packages that are needed lớn complete the project from start to finish.

Project managers make use of project management software to lớn lay out và execute a work breakdown structure. When used in combination with a Gantt chart that incorporates WBS levels & task hierarchies, project management software can be especially effective for planning, scheduling và executing projects. is an online work management software with industry-leading project management tools like Gantt charts, kanban boards, sheets & more. Plan using WBS levels in our tool, then execute with your team via easy-to-use kanban boards and task lists. Try it for không tính phí today.’s online Gantt charts feature a column for the WBS code—learn more

Why Use a WBS In Project Management?

Making a WBS is the first step in developing a project schedule. It defines all the work that needs to be completed (and in what order) to achieve the project goals và objectives. By visualizing your project in this manner, you can understand your project scope, & allocate resources for all your project tasks.

A well-constructed work breakdown structure helps with important project management process groups & knowledge areas such as:

Project Planning, Project Scheduling and Project BudgetingRisk Management, Resource Management, Task Management và Team Management

In addition, a WBS helps avoid common project management issues such as missed deadlines, scope creep và cost overrun, among others.

In other words, a work breakdown structure serves as your bản đồ through complicated projects. Your project scope may include several phases, or smaller sub-projects—and even those sub-projects can be broken down into tasks, deliverables, và work packages! Your WBS can help you manage those items, và gain clarity into the details needed to lớn accomplish every aspect of your project scope.

Work Breakdown Structure Example

Now that we’ve gone through the definition of a WBS & learned why they are a great project management tool, let’s take a look at a work breakdown structure example.

For our WBS example, we’ll be creating a work breakdown structure to lớn guide a commercial building construction project. This is potentially a complex project, but a WBS chart will take that complexity và boil the project scope down khổng lồ simpler tasks to lớn make the project manageable.

Study the phase-based work breakdown structure example of a construction project below:

At the đứng top of the work breakdown structure is your final deliverable (in this instance, the construction project). Immediately beneath that is the next WBS level, which are the main project phases required to complete the project. The third and lowest cấp độ shows work packages. Most WBS charts have 3 levels, but you can showroom more depending on the complexity of your projects.

Each of those five project phases—initiation, planning, execution, control and closeout, also act as control accounts & branch off the main deliverable at the top. Once decided, they are then broken down into a series of deliverables. For example, the initiation phase includes site evaluation work & creating the project charter.

You’ll also need a work package khổng lồ go with each of those project deliverables. In the execution phase in our construction example, we can look at the interior work deliverable. That deliverable is divided into two work packages, which are installing the plumbing and setting up the electricity.

The WBS, when created as thoroughly as possible, is the roadmap lớn guide you to completion of what would seem to lớn be a very complicated project scope. However, when broken down with a WBS, project planning, scheduling và resource planning suddenly become much more manageable.

Types of WBS

There are two main types of WBS: deliverable-based, và phase-based. They depend on whether you want lớn divide your project in terms of time or scope.

Deliverable-Based Work Breakdown Structure

A deliverable-based WBS first breaks down the project into all the major areas of the project scope as control accounts, & then divides those into project deliverables và work packages.

Here’s an example of a deliverable-based WBS that’s taken from our free work breakdown structure template. Download the template today to practice building your own work breakdown structure in Excel.

An deliverable-based WBS example showing control accounts, work packages và tasks.

Phase-Based Work Breakdown Structure

The phase-based WBS displays the final deliverable on top, with the WBS levels below showing the five phases of a project (initiation, planning, execution, control and closeout). Just as in the deliverable-based WBS, the project phases are divided into project deliverables và work packages. Our previous graphic in the “Work Breakdown Structure Example” section contained a phase-based WBS example.

Types of WBS Charts

Once you’ve chosen a deliverable-based or phase-based WBS, you can also choose between different types of WBS diagrams. Let’s take a look at the main types of work breakdown structure charts.

Work Breakdown Structure List: Also known as an outline view, this is a danh mục of work packages, tasks & deliverables. It’s probably the simplest method to make a WBS, which is sometimes all you need.

Work Breakdown Structure Tree Diagram: The most commonly seen version, the tree structure depiction of a WBS is an organizational chart that has all the same WBS elements of the list (phases, deliverables, tasks and work packages) but represents the workflow or progress as defined by a diagrammatic representation.

Work Breakdown Structure Gantt Chart: A Gantt chart is both a spreadsheet và a timeline. The Gantt chart is a WBS that can vị more than a static task menu or tree diagram. With a dynamic Gantt chart, you can liên kết dependencies, mix milestones, even mix a baseline. This is the most common version in project management software.

Build a work breakdown structure Gantt chart diagram in in just a matter of minutes. Get started for free today.

A Gantt chart with WBS codes in Learn more

WBS Elements

A typical project work breakdown structure is made up of several key components. We’ll use our WBS example above to lớn identify each of the main WBS elements.

WBS Levels: The WBS levels are what determines the hierarchy of a WBS element. Most work breakdown structures have 3 levels that represent the project’s main deliverable, control accounts, project deliverables and work packages.Control Accounts: Control accounts are used khổng lồ group work packages & measure their status. They’re used to lớn control areas of your project scope. In our example the execution project phase could be a control tài khoản because it has several deliverables và work packages associated to it.Project Deliverables: Project deliverables are the desired outcome of project tasks and work packages. In our WBS example, we can observe some examples of project deliverables such as the project budget or interior work. Both of them are the result of smaller tasks và work packages.Tasks: Your tasks make up your work packages & therefore, your project scope. A WBS will help you define each task requirements, status, description, task owner, dependencies, & duration.

If you prefer a visual và verbal explanation of this information on work breakdown structures, watch this video.

How to lớn Create a Work Breakdown Structure In Six Steps

To create a WBS for your project, you’ll need information from other project management documents. Here are six simple steps to create a work breakdown structure.

1. Define the Project Scope, Goals and Objectives

Your project goals và objectives set the rules for defining your project scope. Your project scope, team members, goals và objectives should be documented on your project charter.

2. Identify Project Phases & Control Accounts

The next level down is the project phases: break the larger project scope statement into a series of phases that will take it from conception to completion. You can also create control accounts, which are task categories for different work areas you want to lớn keep track of.

3. Các mục Your Project Deliverables

What are your project deliverables? menu them all and chú ý the work needed for those project deliverables to be deemed successfully delivered (sub-deliverables, work packages, resources, participants, etc.)

4. Set WBS Levels

The WBS levels are what make a work breakdown structure a “hierarchical deconstruction of your project scope”, as defined by the project management institute in its project management body toàn thân of knowledge book (PMBOK). You’ll need to start at the final project deliverable & think about all the deliverables và work packages needed to get there from the start.

5. Create Work Packages

Take your deliverables from above and break them down into every single task and subtask that is necessary khổng lồ deliver them. Group those into work packages.

6. Choose Task Owners

With the tasks now laid out, assign them to lớn your project team. Give each team member the work management tools, resources and authority they need lớn get the job done.

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WBS Software

Work breakdown structure software is used to outline a project’s final deliverable & define the phases that are necessary to lớn achieve it.