Play with the WBS


When a Project Manager (PM) is tasked with a project from the sponsor, it is normal for them to have a certain feeling of fear.

«And now, what do I do? Will I be able to do this? How can I ensure the success of this huge project?»

A project is successful (even in failure) if it manages to stay inside the Iron Triangle.

To respect costs, times and objectives, it is important to determine the project scope by researching the requirements of the stakeholders. But it is even more important to create a Work Breakdown Structure, or WBS.


Today we would like to focus on this last aspect, which is sometimes disregarded by PMs but which certainly leads to defining individual work packages (WP) as precisely as possible.

The PMBOK defines the WBS as:


A product-oriented "family tree" of project components that organizes and defines the total scope of the project.


Even better we could say that creating the WBS is the process of dividing the expected project deliverables and/or the expected project works into smaller manageable components.


For example, if we have to design a new bicycle, the PM and/or the Project Team (PT) could begin to define what constitute the macro parts of this object. This level should contain 100% of the project scope, e.g.: For a bicycle to really be a bicycle, what must it have?


The sublevels must be addressed individually by the PM / PT using the decomposition technique.

Each descending level represents an increasingly detailed definition of a project component (a product or a service).

For example, how could the «Wheels» element be scoped down to its individual working packages?


Based on what our company is able to produce in terms of these objects, we could say, for example, that we will build the structural part of the wheel (rim, spokes and hub), as well as the tyre parts (tyre + valve). However, the “Brakes” and “Gears” WPs will be outsourced.


Finally, a WBS document will be created containing the list of all WPs with all their specifications.

This is a very basic example of what it means to create a WBS. But if you play around with this methodology, you are certain to find many WPs that you initially didn't think of and which you would only discover at run time.


Ultimately, the WBS helps the PM to stay in the Iron Triangle and therefore satisfy the sponsor.