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Work breakdown structure – part 1

List of all the components

The work breakdown structure (wbs) should form part of the Project Notebook.
Should, because it will exist in terms of the project schedule.
Strictly speaking the work breakdown structure is merely a list of component events that require actions to achieve them.
It’s not until they are considered alongside dependencies and timelines are introduced that the schedule exists.

In effect it starts with the overall goal of the project which is then broken down into smaller and smaller goals that ultimately become the wbs.
There will be many activities within each component of the wbs.

Once a list of ‘things to do’ exist many people will be keen to start a project. It must be resisted at all costs.
The additional detail of task durations and dependencies are required to assist in building the schedule.
At the same time you don’t want to accumulate so much data, looking for perfection, that you find it hard to get started.

Departmental basis

Each department should produce a list of the activities (tasks) that are required to uphold its part of the overall plan.
That is, their own work breakdown structure.
They would then consider timelines and interdependencies between the tasks.
It may be an idea to record these separately but they may change so regularly in practice that it rapidly becomes a farce to keep the Project Notebook up to date.

Each departmental work breakdown structure can then be incorporated into an overall schedule.
Once this happens dependencies between tasks in other departments and areas need to be assessed.

Final list becomes the project schedule

The finalised list with start and end dates, durations and interdependencies, together with responsibilities becomes the schedule.

Under PRINCE2® the focus is on products. These are the equivalent of the objectives as described here.

PRINCE2 2009 projects focus on the definition and delivery of products, in particular their quality requirements.
A successful project is output-oriented not activity-oriented.
An output-oriented project is one that agrees and defines the project’s products prior to undertaking the activities required to produce them.
The set of agreed products defines the scope of a project and provides the basis for planning and control.
[see Principles - Focus on products]

PRINCE2 [see ‘The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2’] uses a technique known as product-based planning to identify, define and analyse the plan’s products.
[see Plans - The PRINCE2 approach - Define and analyse the products]

The plan is broken down into its major products, which are then further broken down until an appropriate level of detail for the plan is reached.
A lower-level product can be a component of only one higher-level product.
The resultant hierarchy of products is known as a product breakdown structure.
[see Plans - The PRINCE2 approach - Prerequisites for planning – design the plan - Create the product breakdown structure]

PRINCE2® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.

Non - PRINCE2 information