Understanding work breakdown structures

Whenever I think of WBS, I think about a very elderly person in our family (no more), who is a born project manager. For every wedding in our joint family, he used to come a couple of days in advance and voluntarily take charge of the whole show. First thing he does was to make a list of all the things that need to be done like food arrangements, travel arrangements, garlands, decorations… the list was not very big, that means, he was not breaking it to the minutest (activity) level. The decomposition stopped somewhere in between the high level scope and the lowest level, which are the activities. Now I realize that, being a great manager, he stopped exercising control at a work package level.

Even without any formal training, he knew the importance of work breakdown structure (WBS). Without a WBS, it is very difficult to get an accurate estimate.

Key points about WBS

  1. A work breakdown structure (WBS) gives the break up of work. It does not give the sequence of work and the time lines.
  2. The lowest level in the WBS is known as work packages
  3. 8-80 rule suggests that work packages should be between 8 hours and 80 hours chunks of work. For smaller projects it should be towards 8 hours and for larger projects, it should be towards 80 hours or anything in between.
  4. WBS dictionaries are used to provide additional information about the work packages.
  5. It is a great tool for explaining the scope of work to any stakeholder by any other stakeholder.
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