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WBS Types

WBS Types (#5 in the series How to Plan and Organize a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

Even though the term “Work Breakdown Structure” has been used as a label for all project scope hierarchical diagrams, there are, in practice, many types other than “deliverable” oriented structures.

Verb-oriented WBS: a task-oriented WBS defines the deliverable of project work in terms of the actions that must be done to produce the deliverable. The first word in a given WBS element usually is a verb, such as, design, develop, optimize, transfer, test, etc.

Noun-oriented WBS: a deliverable-oriented WBS defines project work in terms of the components (physical or functional) that make up the deliverable. In this case, the first word in a given WBS element is a noun, such as, Module A, Subsystem A, Automobile Engine, Antenna, etc. Since the nouns are usually parts of a product, this WBS type is sometimes called a “Product Breakdown Structure (PBS). Read the Complete Article

How To Plan A Project In Three Stages

How To Plan A Project In Three Stages (#13 in the series How to Plan and Organize a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

Planning a new project does not have to be chaotic. By using a simple three-stage process, the project manager can develop the overall planning structure, then bring in team leaders and team members to complete the detailed planning. Following this, a final planning review can be conducted for the purpose of resolving any planning conflicts with the project schedule, the project budget, and the project scope.

Stage What Who Output
1 Top-Level Planning (Scope Planning) Project Manager
  • Scope Statement
  • WBS (Level 2)
  • OBS (Level 2)
  • RAM (PM Team Level)
  • Schedule (WBS Level 2)
2 Detailed Planning (Scope Definition) Team Leaders & Team Members
  • WBS (All levels)
  • OBS (All levels)
  • RAM (Team Level)
  • Project Schedule
  • Project Budget
  • Risk Management Plans
3 Final Planning Review Everyone
  • Final Agreement
  • Project Management Plan

Stage 1: Top-Level Planning

This stage is usually conducted by the project manager and consists of doing some initial project planning so that subsequent detailed planning can take place quickly and efficiently. Read the Complete Article

Project Schedule (Gantt Chart)

Project Schedule (Gantt Chart) (#12 in the series How to Plan and Organize a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

When the network diagram is completed so is the Gantt Chart. Changing one will affect the other depending on the scheduling software used. Most project participants prefer to plan the project using network diagrams, and track the status of project activities using the Gantt Chart.

Gantt Chart Example

Gantt Chart Example (Click to enlarge)

MICHAEL D. TAYLOR, M.S. in systems management, B.S. in electrical engineering, has more than 30 years of project, outsourcing, and engineering experience. He is principal of Systems Management Services, and has conducted project management training at the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension in their PPM Certificate program for over 13 years, and at companies such as Sun Microsystems, GTE, Siemens, TRW, Loral, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and Inprise. He also taught courses in the UCSC Extension Leadership and Management Program (LAMP), and was a guest speaker at the 2001 Santa Cruz Technology Symposium. Read the Complete Article

Network Diagrams

Network Diagrams (#11 in the series How to Plan and Organize a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

A project network diagram is a flow chart depicting the sequence in which a project’s non-summary activities (“terminal elements”) are to be completed, showing all their dependencies.

Network Diagram

Network Diagram Example (Click to enlarge)

The network diagram is excellent for planning and replanning project activities sequencing, and it also identifies the project’s critical path. Upon completing the construction of the network diagram, the activities which represent the longest path from project start to project end, are identified. That means if any of these critical path activities slip, so does the project completion date.

MICHAEL D. TAYLOR, M.S. in systems management, B.S. in electrical engineering, has more than 30 years of project, outsourcing, and engineering experience. He is principal of Systems Management Services, and has conducted project management training at the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension in their PPM Certificate program for over 13 years, and at companies such as Sun Microsystems, GTE, Siemens, TRW, Loral, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and Inprise. Read the Complete Article

Responsibility Allocation Matrix – RAM

Responsibility Allocation Matrix – RAM (#10 in the series How to Plan and Organize a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

The RAM is a matrix which relates the project OBS to the WBS to help ensure that each element of the project’s WBS is assigned to a responsible individual. The primary purpose of using a RAM is to avoid role confusion on projects.

There can be three RAMs on any given project, those being, a) the Key Stakeholder RAM, b) the Project Management Team RAM (illustrated below), and c) individual Team RAMs. In each case, responsibilities can be defined in various ways using a simple number system. For instance, a “1” on the RAM would indicate that the individual has primary responsibility, a “2” would indicate that the individual must be consulted by the person who has primary responsibility, a “3” might indicate that the person may be consulted by the person who has primary responsibility, a “4” would indicate that the person has signature authority, and “5” would indicate that the individual is a back-up to the primary individual, etc. Read the Complete Article

Organization Breakdown Structure – OBS

Organization Breakdown Structure – OBS (#9 in the series How to Plan and Organize a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

Like the WBS, the OBS is a hierarchical diagram. It typically depicts the overall organization of the project members, usually with the project manager at the top, the team leaders at Level 2, and the individual team members below Level 2. Staff members may also be included.

Organization Breakdown Structure - OBS

Organization Breakdown Structure – OBS

The OBS shows clear lines of responsibility and reporting within the project. As a rule of thumb, there should be no more than about six people reporting directly to the project manager.

MICHAEL D. TAYLOR, M.S. in systems management, B.S. in electrical engineering, has more than 30 years of project, outsourcing, and engineering experience. He is principal of Systems Management Services, and has conducted project management training at the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension in their PPM Certificate program for over 13 years, and at companies such as Sun Microsystems, GTE, Siemens, TRW, Loral, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and Inprise. Read the Complete Article

WBS Checklist

WBS Checklist (#8 in the series How to Plan and Organize a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

When the first WBS is drafted, the project manager should use the following checklist to ensure that all aspects of a proper WBS have been considered.

  • The top element of the WBS is the overall deliverable of the project, and all stakeholders agree with it.
  • The first two levels of the WBS (the root node and Level 2) define a set of planned outcomes that collectively and exclusively represent 100% of the project scope.
  • The WBS elements are defined in terms of outcomes or results. (Outcomes are the desired ends of the project, and can be predicted accurately).
  • Each WBS element has an identification number assigned which identifies its relative position within the structure.
  • The WBS encompasses everything that will ultimately comprise the project deliverable, and all deliverables in the project are included.
Read the Complete Article

WBS Examples

WBS Examples (#7 in the series How to Plan and Organize a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

Graphical WBS Method

WBS Diagram

Figure 1: WBS Diagram

The above WBS diagram which depicts the Graphical WBS Method also illustrates the 100% Rule. These percentages are usually based on the estimated costs, or estimated effort (direct labor hours). At the beginning of the decomposition process, the project manager assigns 100% to the total scope of this project. At WBS Level 2, the 100% is subdivided into five elements at Level-2. The number of points allocated to each is an estimate based on the relative effort involved. Level 2 elements are further subdivided to Level 3, and so forth.

Indented Outline Method

Another technique for decomposing a project is the indented outline method. In this case the WBS levels are identified by their indenting as shown in the following list. Some project managers prefer this method because it is typically the left portion of the Gantt Chart. Read the Complete Article

Decomposing the WBS into Work Packages

Decomposing the WBS into Work Packages (#6 in the series How to Plan and Organize a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

The WBS is decomposed down to the work package level. A work package is the lowest level in the WBS, and is the point at which the cost and schedule for the work can be reliably estimated.1

A question to be answered in the design of any WBS is when to stop dividing work into smaller elements. If a WBS terminal elements are defined too broadly, it may not be possible to track project performance effectively. If a WBS terminal elements are too granular, it may be inefficient to keep track of so many terminal elements, especially if the planned work is in the distant future. A satisfactory tradeoff may be found in the concept of progressive elaboration which allows WBS details to be progressively refined before work begins on an element of work. Read the Complete Article

Work Breakdown Structure – WBS

Work Breakdown Structure – WBS (#4 in the series How to Plan and Organize a Project)
By Michael D. Taylor

“A Work Breakdown Structure is a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables.”1

A Work Breakdown Structure is a fundamental project management technique for defining and organizing the total scope of a project, using a hierarchical tree structure. The first two levels of the WBS (the root node and Level 2) define a set of planned outcomes that collectively and exclusively represent 100% of the project scope. At each subsequent level, the children of a parent node collectively and exclusively represent 100% of the scope of their parent node.

Complex projects can be overwhelming to the project manager. Instinctively, many project managers will take a multifaceted project and break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. Read the Complete Article

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