Work Breakdown Structure: Break Your Project into Manageable Units of Work


If you take a car trip to a town less than 100 miles away, it may not take much planning. Just hop in the car, check the gas gauge, and go. But if you were going to drive from the Florida Keys to Anchorage, Alaska, you’d probably spend some time looking at maps and researching your route. Somehow you’d break the big trip down into pieces. Maybe you would do this with geographic borders, such as states. Or you could plan it by how far you might go each day. But whatever approach you use, the only way to accurately plan a trip of this size is to break it down.

The same is true for projects. At a high level, you may understand a project well enough to balance its cost-schedule-quality equilibrium, but you also need to be able to break it down—to understand the whole project by understanding its parts. The work breakdown structure (WBS) is the tool for breaking down a project into its component parts. It is the foundation of project planning and one of the most important techniques used in project management. If done well, it can become the secret to successful project management. The WBS is perhaps the most powerful technique in this book.


The work breakdown structure identifies all the tasks in a project; in fact, a WBS is sometimes referred to simply ...

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