Work Breakdown Structure

A work breakdown structure is a way to define the relationships of tasks in a task plan. A work breakdown can be as simple as each task plan having its own work breakdown structure that is determined by the needs of the individual task plan. A work breakdown can be as complex as requiring certain types of tasks to be present in specific locations in a task plan. The former is often used by small flexible teams (such as Agile teams) that don't require a lot of organizational overhead for them to complete a project. The latter is often used in larger organizations that require data to be consistent across the organization.

Any item implicitly requires effort in order to get results. The quality of effort affects the quality of every result. The importance of an item determines the required results and also helps determine the amount of effort needed to achieve those results. One item may have a higher level of importance than another. For any item, effort and results are interdependent, but it is important to remember that effort and results are not equal.

A commonly asked question about work breakdown structure is "Does my organization need it?" In short: a work breakdown structure isn't optional, but the degree to which it's defined is. At a minimum, a work breakdown structure should contain all of the available items and should define the relationship of any single item to any other single item.

A work breakdown structure can also be used provide a structure from which effort can be compared to results. For example, you can use work breakdown structure to help define the following:

As a concept, work breakdown structure is a way to place all possible items into a hierarchy that maps not only to how your organization plans work, but also how your organization values work. In practice, there are many types of work breakdown structures and there are varying levels of complexity. Because work breakdown structures are often unique to the organization which creates and uses them, it is important to keep in mind that a work breakdown structure only defines the framework in which your organization will do work, not the actual items.

A work breakdown structure is represented in a task plan by how the tasks in the task plan are indented. A parent task is also called a summary task (in that the parent task includes rolled-up values from all of the child tasks). Child tasks are indented under parent tasks.