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Run project successfully with a smart work breakdown structure

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Creating a work breakdown structure is one of the critical points in project planning. With the information obtained from this process, the tasks and activities will be defined, so it is important to avoid errors that could extend their consequences to the final result of the project.

What is the work breakdown structure?

The work breakdown structure provides an activity-based view of the project. It is a hierarchical model of all the work required to produce the project results. Each level of the structure represents an increasingly detailed description of project work by activity. The lowest level describes a work package that can be calculated, scheduled, monitored, and controlled.

The work breakdown structure is an extremely valuable tool for project management methodology as it lays the foundation for the rest of the project planning. Obtaining appropriate reference bases for the entire project, its estimation, the use of resources, scheduling, risk analysis, and contracting will depend on its solidity.

Errors in organization charts: the most frequent in the structure of work breakdown

Even the best project manager can, in case of important, particularly long-lasting tasks or if he is subject to continuous requests for updates, fall into common mistakes that could cause a task to fail. These errors, frequent in project charter, can be avoided by making a continuous analysis of the way you work and the health of your team.

Common problems, which every manager faces, have to do with:

– The work breakdown structure is not an exclusive task of the Project Director: although it is his responsibility, it is not advisable for him to try to address its development individually. The contributions of stakeholders in the process will enrich it, reducing the needs and time for subsequent adjustment.

– The WBS must ensure the precise level of detail of the work package: this degree of specificity must be sufficient to facilitate work planning and understanding by teams, avoiding being too lax, as this could lead to excessive autonomy on the part of the work teams, which could lead the project away from its objectives; but it cannot, in any case, be excessive, since it would make it difficult for the Project Management to manage it.

– The end result of the work breakdown structure is the work packages: that is, the WBS concludes in deliverables, not specific activities or tasks. It reflects what the client or each stakeholder will get when the project is finished.

– Updates to the work breakdown structure may introduce changes in the scope of the project: the WBS is a formal project document and, therefore, any modification to it requires the application of the project change control procedure. Any update or transformation that the WBS undergoes implies changes in the deliverables. Control is essential to avoid affecting the scope of the project.

– The work breakdown structure is not an organization chart – although they may often appear similar in appearance, these two documents are very different. The organizational hierarchy reveals information relative to the corporate chain of command or lines of communication, whereas the WBS is simply limited to one project and only shows the deliverables and scope of that project.

– The WBS is not a substitute for the project plan: it cannot be used to replace the calendar of tasks and activities or the project planning, they are different and complementary concepts. each one provides different information with a different functionality. One of the main differences between these tools and the WBS is that the work breakdown structure does not imply an order and does not require a sequential presentation, but it is simply a visual breakdown of the deliverables.

And finally, if you are a Project Manager, remember that assuming your responsibility is not incompatible with delegating. Effective communication will help you minimize mistakes and make better decisions.

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Christopher Stern
Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and other federal agencies. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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