What Is Work Breakdown Structure in Project Management? - WorkDo.io

What Is Work Breakdown Structure in Project Management?

WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) is a project’s visual, deliverable-oriented, and level-graded breakdown. These diagrams aid project managers by clearly defining the project scope and giving a visual representation of the tasks at hand.

Each step is clearly outlined in the work breakdown structure chart. Therefore, a WBS is a crucial planning tool. Work packages, tasks, and final deliverables are placed on top of the WBS chart, while the levels below outline the breakdown of deliverables, work packages, and tasks.

Project management software that defines a project from start to finish is used to execute and lay out WBS. This, along with a Gantt chart, can be especially useful for planning. They define task levels and WBS levels perfectly, which are necessary for the execution and scheduling of a project.

If this sounds interesting, you may want to learn about the Work Breakdown Structure. Keep reading to find out!

How Is Work Breakdown Structure Created?

Before designing a work breakdown structure, assessing the project’s scope is important. This is done by holding key discussions with team members and stakeholders.

A project manager must make a list of all necessary deliverables and inputs. Transparency must be given top priority. It is also a good idea to use lists, spreadsheets, flow charts, or Gantt charts to define the hierarchical outline. This helps understand the connectivity between tasks and helps identify the importance of each phase in project completion.

Once this is done, tasks can be assigned to team members accordingly. Make sure deliverables are clearly defined, and tasks are listed in the correct order. Spreading duties and responsibilities amongst various team members increase efficiency, speed, and quality.

What Are The Characteristics Of WBS?

PMI (Project Management Institute) describes a work breakdown structure as a deliverable-oriented breakdown of tasks according to levels. A project manager must outline these, and the project team must accomplish all the objectives to produce the required deliverables.

Every level defines a new task with the proper details required to complete it. The PMI also states that any work breakdown structure must be designed so that every new hierarchy level should include instructions to complete the parent level/task.

Each parent task must have several child tasks within it to be truly defined as a parent element.

Examples Of Work Breakdown Structure

The work breakdown structure for every project is different. A project manager should experiment with various types to see what kind of WBS suits their team. The ultimate goal is to represent project hierarchy visually to enable clearer progress. This helps both external stakeholders and team members.

Let us look at a few examples of work breakdown structure. Any of these can be used to outline WBS:

WBS Flowchart

WBS can be structured in a diagrammatic workflow. Many WBS examples/templates you will see are also flowcharts.

WBS Spreadsheet

WBS can be easily and effectively structured in a spreadsheet. Various phases, deliverables, and tasks are noted in separate rows and columns.

WBS Tree Diagram

The tree diagram of a WBS is similar to an organizational chart. It has elements like the list such as phases, deliverables, tasks, and work packages. A diagrammatic presentation is used to represent the workflow and progress.

WBS List

WBS can be structured as plain lists defining tasks and deliverables. Even subtasks can be defined using this simple approach.

WBS Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart represents both a timeline and a spreadsheet. A Gantt chart structure also helps visualize project milestones and allows the linking of task dependencies.

Is There A Difference Between Work Breakdown Schedule And WBS?

Most project documents with a detailed structure support the WBS. This includes:

  • Quality plan
  • Procurement plan
  • Communications plan
  • Management plan
  • Staffing plan
  • Work Breakdown Schedule plan
  • The work breakdown down schedule includes all tasks’ starting and ending dates and clearly defines the WBS deliverables.

Why Should WBS Be Used In Project Management?

Creating a WBS is the first step to making a project schedule. WBS describes all the tasks, their correct order, and any project goals/objectives. Project visualization helps understand the scope so resources can be distributed correctly for all tasks.

A proper work breakdown structure is constructed In a manner that assists with important project management process groups and knowledge circles like:

  • Project Scheduling
  • Project Budgeting
  • Task Management
  • Team Management
  • Risk Management
  • Resource Management
  • Project Planning

A work breakdown structure or WBS also helps avoid project management problems like scope creep, cost overrun, missed deadlines, etc.

WBS is a map for complicated projects with multiple phases, sub-projects, and tons of breakdowns like packages, deliverables, and tasks. It helps identify all items and provides project clarity. As details become clearer, the scope becomes well-defined, and project completion becomes easier to achieve.

What Are The Types of WBS?

There are 2 main types of WBS. Let’s look at both of these in detail below:

Deliverable-Based WBS

It breaks down projects and highlights major scope areas such as control accounts. These are further divided into work packages and deliverables.

Phase-Based WBS

This type lists the final deliverable on top, while lower levels define 5 other phases, which include:

  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Control
  • Closeout

Each project phase is further divided into work packages and deliverables.

What Are Work Breakdown Structure Elements?

Work breakdown structures consist of multiple key components. Let’s look at these below:

WBS Levels

Levels define the hierarchy of a WBS element. Usually, work breakdown structures consist of 3 levels. These define the project’s control accounts, main deliverables, and work packages.

WBS Dictionary

This is a document that describes different WBS elements. It is essential as it aids stakeholders and project participants to understand work breakdown structure terminologies more easily.

Project Deliverables

Deliverables mean the desired or expected outcome of work packages and tasks. These are defined for smaller tasks as well.

Work Packages

The PMI or Project Management Institute describes work packages as the lowest level of the WBS in its PMBOK (project management body of knowledge book). Work packages indicate groups of smaller tasks assigned to a department or team member. It helps project managers work out duration and budget, which is crucial for WBS elements and planning.


Tasks form the work packages and project scope. A WBS aids project managers in defining status, description, task owner, duration, dependencies, and requirements.

Control Accounts

These are used to measure and check the status of and group work packages together. They help exert control over project scope. A control account may also have multiple work packages and deliverables under it.


Using a work breakdown structure tool like TASKLY can help you create folders/subfolders that can be used to define tasks with multiple subtasks. Each relevant task can be assigned to a dedicated team or department. Due dates and budget help with deliverable completion. Project representation can be shared with stakeholders to show progress and hold discussions at various stages.

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