Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) in its literal meaning is making small pieces out of a bigger pieces. Work breakdown structure template is a method of breaking down work into small easily manageable bits which can then be scheduled and assigned. This helps enhance productivity and make work easier by making the work more visual for the team.
One of the first times I used a WBS was in a website migration project which required multiple teams working together. The main problem I had was everybody was only interested in their own scope and couldn’t agree on what was needed. How I approached it was met with all stakeholders individually and documented all the tasks they required to be completed during the migration.
Then I created a WBS on a powerpoint slide with all task they highlighted, grouping them logically. Next I got all stakeholders in a room to discuss the WBS. There was a bit of back and fort what was needed vs wasn’t, who was to do what etc but having all the tasks up on the screen made it very easy for them to have these discussions. I updated as we discussed and at the end of the meeting we had an agreed WBS which was the scope of the project.
Ever since then I have been a huge fan of WBS and use them in project kickoff to help visualize the work needed and facilitate conversations with stakeholders.
Project Management WBS
If you have a big project you should consider using WBS so that it can be easily managed, scheduled and delivered. From a project management perspective the WBS is composed of levels which are:
✓ Controls Account which consist of the main project deliverables and phases that should be achieved in projects.
✓ Work Packages which are the amount of work or activities that will assist in the achievement of the level of controls account.
✓ Activities, involves work or tasks that is required to finish the project or the work package.
All these levels are found in all types of work basic structure.
Let us look at the following construction project to help you understand WBS template and how it looks like. Construction is quite a difficult project, but thanks to WBS template that difficulty would b broken down to small manageable tasks.
Work Breakdown Structure Project Management Definition
PMBOK defines the work-breakdown structure as a “hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables.”Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK 5)
How to create WBS Template
When creating a WBS you must derive or have an objective in mind based on the task you want to accomplish. The objective can be basically anything you want completed or done.
Second, split the objective or rather the project into manageable or small pieces. Careful not to list out every step that will ensure the success of the project. At this step you should only deal with necessary deliverables but not the actions.
Third, considering the type of project you are undertaking ensure to divide the project into sections or phases or sub-objectives. which can then be scheduled and assigned.
After creating a WBS you should present it to all stakeholders to confirm it covers all expected scope of the project. After the scope is agreed you can start making a project pan by sequencing the pieces of work.
Tips for Making Sample WBS Document
- The work being undertaken using WBS must be 100% of all the work required to achieve the objective of the project. Any task must be related or aimed at achieving the overall objective of the project, this is commonly referred to as the 100% rule.
- Always remember not to use a sub-task twice or plan to do any work twice because in so doing you would be contradicting the 100% rule and it will lead to errors and misrepresentation of figures when allocating resources to the project.
- Focus on the outcomes of the project not actions, it is necessary that you just stick to deliverables and not the actions to be undertaken.
- Use the 8/80 rule which states that work should not take less than 8 hours and not more than 80 hours of effort used. In other words work should not take more than 10 days if we use the 8 hours a day of work.
- A WBS should have three levels of detail, subdivision of WBS branches can be subdivided more but majority consist of three levels.
- It is prudent that one should make and allocate assignments to certain teams or an individual to undertake tasks so it is important to ensure responsibilities are well defined.
The risk breakdown structure example below built with Lucidchart excellently displays the levels and focuses on outcomes. It is very easy to read and understand what will be done in and is covered in the scope.
A WBS is important because it assists to:
✓ The WBS helps to better the understanding of a project as when developing a WBS the team gets to understand the project and their roles.
✓ A WBS helps to define the project scope, define project schedule, risk plan, and budget.
Limitations of WBS Templates
- It needs active interface management
- It leads to more work for the management as they perform functions such as organizing, planning, monitoring and review.
- Problems related to demarcation can arise
- It is hectic to do a step by step analysis of the project
Start with the deliverable at the very top of the structure as its title, the break it down to a number of tasks then to sub-tasks that are easily manageable.
Google Docs Free WBS Templates
Google Sheets WBS Templates
When accessing a google doc to edit you need to go: File / Make a Copy. This will only be available of you are logged into Google.
Free Work Breakdown Structure / WBS Templates Excel
- Smartsheet Work Breakdown Structure Template with Gantt Chart
- Smartsheet Work Breakdown Structure Diagram Template
- Smartsheet Work Breakdown Structure Dictionary Template
- Smartsheet Work Breakdown Structure Outline and Diagram Template
- ProjectManager Work Breakdown Structure Template in Excel
- Stakeholdermap Free Work Breakdown Structure Templates
- Vertex42 Work Breakdown Structure Template
- TeamGantt WBS Template
Free Work Breakdown Structure / WBS Templates Word
- TemplateLab 30+ Work Breakdown Structure Templates
- Smartsheet Work Breakdown Structure Tree Diagram Template
- Smartsheet Work Breakdown Structure Levels Template
- Work Breakdown Structure Template – A.cdc.gov
Free Work Breakdown Structure / WBS Templates PDF
Free Online Work Breakdown Structure Template
- Work Breakdown Structure Template in Creately
- Work Breakdown Structure Template in Miro
- Instagantt Free Work Breakdown Structure Template
Creative Work Breakdown Charts
Any person in charge of the project in one way or another knows what is required of them to complete a project, the timeline and the cost of the project. They might then to graphically creatively demonstrate this to the stakeholders. There are some ready made Work Breakdown Structure Templates in Canva you can use straight away.
Work Breakdown Template Q&A
Further Questions on What is a Work Breakdown Structure
If you like the below video it is worth checking out the ProjectManagers work breakdown structure guide that provides extra details you might need to complete the WBS and get your project kicked off.