Work Breakdown Structure

Mona Rudloff

Unfortunately, we all know it: a project can become a real Herculean task. Planning is everything here! With bad luck you are faced with a mountain of tasks and nobody knows where to start. There is a simple solution to this problem: the work breakdown structure (WBS).

The project structure plan serves as a project overview and contains all important information

The work breakdown structure is created during the planning phase of project management. The plan is a complete representation of all elements and their dependencies in a project. Ok... and what does that exactly mean? In a WBS, costs, deadlines and results as well as information about responsibilities and controlling data for all relevant variables are displayed. In short: everything that concerns the project is displayed in this plan!
A work breakdown structure is intended to provide all participants with an overview of projects and primarily helps with orientation. It serves as a basis for work sharing and delegation in a project, and often also as a basis for further plans. Professionals use the method by default as an essential element of planning. A project comprises all processes from the production of a product to its delivery.

Example structure in practice

Such a plan is structured hierarchically and is visualized by a tree structure. Here is a small example:


The entire project is divided into levels with deductive procedures. This means that the project is always further specified. So that you do not get bogged down in the structure, we recommend that you plan no more than 4 levels. The best practice is the project level followed by the measure package level, the measure level and finally the individual activities. The aim is to achieve measurable results at measure level, which can be aggregated to the higher levels.

In order to make the whole thing a little easier, we have put together the path in 5 simple steps for you.

In 5 steps to a work breakdown structure

Step 1: Brainstorming

First you should define the project. This is best done in a team! All tasks, which (could) arise with the project, are completely listed. The more heads sit together, the more precise the definition.
Tip: Alternatively, you can use mind mapping or similar methods instead of brainstorming...

Step 2: : Clustering

The listed tasks are clustered according to subject areas or chronological sequence and then summarised in logical work packages. Work packages are the smallest unit in the PSP and describe self-contained and delegable tasks. Which methods should be used for the processes varies from case to case depending on the project content.
Tip: Inform beforehand which methods are suitable for your project and then simply try out which method is best for you! Over time, you get a feeling for it and everything goes a little faster.

Step 3: Responsibilities

Who is responsible for what? You should answer this question clearly! The easiest and safest way to do this is in a team. All team members decide together who is suitable for what and the respective person in charge then makes a commitment to the work packages. Make sure that the tasks of individual responsible persons do not exceed their resource capacity. This means that if person A is overworked and person B still has free capacity, tasks may have to be reallocated.
Tip: Do not assign double responsibilities or substitutions. Otherwise, the temptation is big to shuffle out of responsibility and hope that others will take over the job for you!

Step 4: Times

Now define exact start and end dates. Take into account the priorities and dependencies of the individual elements. Which task packages can be processed in parallel? Which must be processed one after the other? You may be able to postpone tasks or even neglect them completely, saving time and money.
Tip: Set realistic deadlines that will still challenge you. Get opinions from the team for this. In this way you maximize the motivation of everyone involved.

Step 5: Documentation and coding

The entire project structure plan is documented. In addition, the work packages are now coded. A coding is the assignment of a work package number. This fixes the work package in the plan and ensures clear identification of the work packages. To do this, select a suitable system for you - alphabetical, numerical, a mixed form or your own system. We choose a mixed form for our example, assign letters for the individual subprojects and descending numbers for the levels.

Project structure with Falcon

Falcon is a project management software that helps you to convert strategy projects into revenue. Simply create a project structure and define who can see or edit what. With Falcon, you can define clear responsibilities and get a simple overview of the overall project, goals and progress at any time. As a multi-project management software, you can easily manage multiple projects simultaneously.

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