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Work Breakdown Structure = 100% of the Work of the Project

April 8, 2011

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) of a project should contain 100% of the work to be done for the project, or the scope of the project.  While the scope definition is usually an overview of the work, the WBS should contain all the deliverables and work packages required to deliver that scope.  The WBS is our guide.  If  work is not reflected in the approved WBS, then that work is considered out of scope until appropriate change management has been done to approve adding that work to the scope of the project.

We must consider the work of delivering the product, service or capability as well as the project work when creating the WBS.  The WBS is the foundation of the Project Plan or Project Management Plan.  Clearly defining the work of the project in the plan helps us to control the project and improve the identification of changes.  If we do a thorough job of defining the project work in the WBS and Project Plan and get approval from our stakeholders and sponsor regarding the work defined, then we establish a solid basis for determining success criteria and identifying when changes occur.  An incomplete or inaccurate WBS, results in a poor Project Plan that is difficult to manage or control.  Out of control projects cost more and take longer than originally estimated.

Change management is an essential part of effective scope management (one of the 9 knowledge areas defined by PMBOK)  The seeds of project success are sown during the initiation and planning.  By setting stakeholder expectations appropriately during initiation and planning, we can better control and monitor the progress of the project.  If we have no yardstick (the WBS and Project Plan) we cannot determine whether the project is on track.

There are many other posts about work breakdown structures on this blog, the link below highlights some of them.

Collection of WBS Postings on PME

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