50+ Sample Work Breakdown Structures

What Is a Work Breakdown Structure?

According to the project management body of knowledge or PMBOK, a work breakdown structure, or otherwise known as WBS, is a hierarchical division of that total extent of work to be carried out in order to bring about the goal of the project and generate the desired output. It may be a graphical representation or document list of all the things the project needs to achieve. It is split up into different levels. There are three main types of a WBS, one is deliverable based, the second is phase based and last is responsibility based.

What Are the Elements of a Work Breakdown Structure?

Levels: It is important to break down the tasks and the desired output. It is also crucial to have a division of high ranking deliverables and the plan of work. The minimum amount of levels for any WBS is 3 levels. However, you can ask yourself if it can still be divided into smaller manageable levels, you can do as many as you see fit. Complex projects usually have as many as 5 to 6 levels.Deliverables: For a work breakdown structure, it is important to note that you should be using more nouns instead of verbs. This does not mean that you will disregard actions, but, focus more on the prodcut or outcomes.  For every level or phase of the project there should bea deliverable included. The deliverables should also be distinct from others. Prevent from using same deliverable in different levels. Overlapping may result in a doubled item or lost item.Breakdown of hours per deliverable: Take note of the duration for each output. How many hours did it take before accomplishing it? As per the 100 percent rule, this will be added up to verifiy if it matches the total amount of hours in the higher levels.Breakdown of cost per deliverable: Take note of the cost for each output. What is the price to attain each product or item? How much money was used before obtaining oe deliverable? Like in the previous bullet, the cost for each item should match the total cost of the project in the higher levels. It is important for any project to keep track and handle the budget with extreme care and precautions.Breakdown of time: Contrary to the third element, this component focuses on the expectation of when the actual project will be completed. It answers the question of when the project will be completed. This element is actually a way to check with your project schedule. 

What Are the Different Formats of a WBS?

There are four different formats in creating a WBS.

1)Spreadsheet –  This can be used to efficiently take note of the different stages, work and product in the rows and columns of the spreadsheet. A spreadsheet is made up of rows and columns. The main purpose of this is to arrange, compute and sort out the different variables you have input. An example of a spreadsheet is microsoft excel.

2)Gantt chart – Gantt chart is a kind of bar chart that outlines the starting and finish dates of the different elements of a document. It includes several data such as resources, tasks as well as the order in which you will be doing and completing each task. According to Wikipedia and Investopedia, Henry Laurence Gantt was the one who invented this. He was an American mechanical engineer and management consultant. By the use of Gantt charts, you can link the plan and timeline of a WBS. With this you can also indicate the correlation of each task with one another. Understanding the relationship of each one of the tasks is important. It will give you the reason as to why it is relevant for the completion of the project.

3)Lists – This is the most simple format in creating a WBS. This is done as easy as creating a task list and list of deliverables. Doing it in this format will give a clear and concise information of what the requirements are. This can be accomplished by using a numerical method or bullet form.

4)Flowchart – A flow chart is a representation of the series of steps in a consecutive and successive arrangement. It is a simple line drawing that indicates and separates the different steps or processes. It is a schematic representation of the WBS. The benefits of having a graphical representation are: it is faster to understand, the direction of the project will also be clearer and it will be easier to visualize.

How to Create a Work Breakdown Structure?

With the use of the templates above, it will be faster and easier. Still, you have to know and understand the basic steps in doing so.

Step 1: Understanding the Scope of the Project

The first step in creating any WBS is the gathering of data and documents. You need to have a clear and detailed understanding of what the goal of the project is. Creating the WBS without fully knowing and understanding the scope of the project will be risky. Without knowledge of the scope, the WBS will not appropriately match the desired process and outcome of the project. This can be accomplished by looking into the project goal statement.

Step 2: Identifying the Key Deliverables

Next step is to identify the key elements or components of the project. Take note that each element must be crucial in order to accomplish the project. Take note of each deliverable and prepare and research the necessary subtasks for each.

Step 3: Determining the Work Packages

This is similar to the divide and conquer method. Break down each deliverable into more and smaller deliverables. The goal here is to break them down into smaller levels so that it will be faster and easier to accomplish. Continue breaking them down until an individual or a team will be enough to accomplish the said tasks.

It is important to note that training, testing, delivery approval and other supporting activities are also to be planned and taken into account.

Step 4: Create a Work Breakdown Structure Dictionary

This step is mainly for big projects. This is a document that indicates and explains the scope of work in each deliverable for every level. The main purpose of this is for clarification and evaluation. This is the stage where you make sure that the 100 percent rule is applied in every element of every level in the project.

Why Is a Work Breakdown Structure Important?

By the use of this you can easily visualize the project and avoid common risks and complications. Having a work breakdown structure greatly improves productivity of the project and efficiency in completing the project by:

Defining the scope of the projectThe first and one of the most important step and reason as to why organizations create a WBS. By being knowledgeable in the goals and objectives of the project, it will be easier to know the different tasks needed in order to achieve desired outcomes.Identifying independent and quantifiable tasks: As you know, the main purpose of the WBS is the breakdown of deliverables and work. Having quantifiable tasks helps in measuring progress. This will help managers track and review the progress easier and faster. Smaller manageable tasks will be easier to handle.Distribution of each budget into each task: After knowing that breakdownn of cost is included in the elements of a WBS. This is important as to properly estimate and allocate cost for each task. This will guarantee that the sum of each cost in every task will not exceed the total cost of the project. This is an effective way of avoiding overspending.Distribution of responsibility for each task: With this, you can also assign which individual or team is elegible and trustworthy to take on the tasks. Proper allocation of manpower will surely result in an increase of product quality and quantity. This will also show accountability.Progress statusWith the task divided and distributed in each team, it will be easier to know and write the progress report. Also, with the tasks being quantifiable, progress measurement will not be a burdensome task. This makes sure that everything is in line with the goal. It also ensures that all deliverables will be met.Attain and satisfy the main purpose: Breaking down the work into different deliverables, work packages and levels is the most basic step in completing a project. Each lower level must be completed first before going to the next or higher level. This is a consecutive and successive process

What Are the Different Forms of a WBS?

There are three main forms or types of a work breakdown structure.

1)Phase-based structure – Define and arrange the activities and deliverables depending on the different phases of the project. This will focus more on showing the work associated with each level. Also, shows the uniqueness of scope of work in each level.
2)Responsibility-based structure – Define and arrange the activities and deliverables depending on the individual or department that will handle the tasks.

3)Deliverable-based structure – Define and arrange the activities and deliverables depending on the product or output necessary. Using this will clearly depict the products and outputs with the scope of work that needs to be implemented.


What is the difference between a project plan, project schedule and a work breakdown structure?

A WBS focuses on the deliverables or the output of the project. It answers the question of what the project needs to achieve. On the other hand, the project schedule focuses on both the output and the timeline on achieving the said output. It also includes the required resources. Last but not the least, is the project plan. It is an extensive document that encompasses every detail of the project. It also includes the approach and methods to be used. In terms of the depth of detail, the most shallow and basic management tool is the WBS, followed by the project schedule and the most detailed out of the three is the project plan. However, these are interrelated with one another. Some basic steps and components of the detailed project plan are taken up from the WBS and project schedule.

What are some pointers to remember when creating the work breakdown structure?

  • List out all the required work in order to complete and accomplish the project.
  • Focus more on the outcomes of the project. The desired outcome and products must be prioritized.
  • Each of the work packages should be assigned to an individual or a team. Refrain from indicating the same deliverables in different levels.
  • Ensure that training, testing as well as approval cycles have been included.

What is the 100 percent rule?

A 100 percent rule is an important fundamental design that gives and defines all the work within the project and all the intended output. It indicates that the total amount of work and deliverable in the lower levels, should be equal to the total amount of work and deliverable in the higher levels. With the help of the 100 percent rule, you will be guided in the assessment, distribution and progress of the WBS.

What is a deliverable and a work package?

In simple words, a deliverable is the product of a company or a business. It is the end goal of any project. On the other hand, according to Program Evaluation Review Technique or also known as PERT, a work package is the work needed in order to finish a job or process. It is usually the lowest level in a WBS.

What are the common qualities of a work breakdown structure?

At first it should be identifiable so that participants and team members can easily understand what the project is all about. Also, it should be manageable and measurable, in order for easier and faster checking of progress. Lastly, it should also be unifying and adjustable, in order for it to be integrated to other higher management tools and documents.

What are the five phases of management?

The first phase in management is setting your goal. This will be followed by careful and detailed planning. Next, is the execution or implementation of the plans. The fourth step is measurement. This phase allows the management to keep track of the progress and record relevant data. The final step is control. Here, the management is given the authority and power to correct whatever is deemed necessary.

A work breakdown structure complements and refines all other documents within the organization. For every organization, it highlights the scope of work and brings about a project deliverable. It can also transition and help in the risk management plan, project schedule, status reports and last but not the least, the project plan. Having a work breakdown structure guarantees a less risky process and management of the project.