What is a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)? It is a process by which a project is planned
by breaking it into easily definable and understandable goals, milestones and tasks.
Listing the major components first is the first step in developing a WBS. This can be done
by in a word processor, spreadsheet, or using a Gantt chart program.
A key element in the WBS is to plan for intended outcomes, rather than planning actions.
That is, understand what the goals of the project are, define key milestones, and then start
the process of breaking those pieces down into tasks. If there are fixed dates that need to be
met, make sure those are shown in the Gantt chart. This way, as the topics are broken into tasks,
it will become clear upfront whether more resources will need to be added to meet these deadlines.
After the major topics are determined, the process of breaking these
into tasks is next. Depending on the complexity of each task, the project planner
may find it necessary to continue breaking these items into sub-tasks until they are very specific.
For many project planners, a visual model of the WBS is easier to work with than
the "laundry list" dictated by the Gantt chart format. A mind map is ideal for this because
it lets you easily see the work breakdown. A good Gantt chart software program, such as SmartDraw,
will allow you to work in Gantt chart or mind map view, with relational data that automatically
updates both views when changes are made in either one.
It is estimated that more than 90% of projects are late. The primary reason for this
is that they weren't properly planned with a well-thought-out work breakdown structure.
The more detailed the breakdown, the easier it is to plan, organize and schedule a project accurately.