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Creating the PMP Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Creating the PMP Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

If you have ever mapped out a family tree, then in the PMBOK process Create WBS; you’ll construct something like it called a work breakdown structure (WBS).

It maps the deliverables of the project with sub deliverables and other components stemming from each major deliverable in a tree or chart format.

Put simply, a WBS is a deliverable-oriented hierarchy that defines and organizes the entire scope of work of the project, and only the work of the project.

The items defined in the WBS come from the approved scope statement, and like the scope statement, the WBS serves as a foundational agreement among the stakeholders and project team members regarding the project scope.

Some dividing deliverables into smaller components is the purpose of the Create WBS process, and the PMBOK Guide calls this decomposition, which is also a tool and technique of this process.


PMP Create WBS


The WBS will be used throughout many of the remaining Planning processes and is an important part of project planning.

The project charter, requirements documentation, and project scope statement outline the project objectives, requirements, and deliverables. These are used to create the WBS.

Now you will use that comprehensive list of requirements and deliverables to build the framework of the WBS.

Be aware, your WBS will only be as accurate as your list of requirements and deliverables. The deliverables will become the groupings that will form the high levels of the WBS from which activities will be derived later in the Planning processes.

The WBS should detail the full scope of work needed to complete the project. This breakdown will smooth the way for estimating project cost and time, should lean resources, and determine quality controls later in the Planning processes.

Project progress will be based on the estimates and measures assigned to the WBS segments, so yet again, Accra see and completeness are required when decomposing the WBS.

Before constructing the WBS, you will need to gather and review some important project documents, so let us look at those now:

Gathering the WBS Inputs

The inputs to the Create WBS process are:

  • Scope management plan
  • Project scope statement
  • Requirements documentation
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets

The scope management plan outlines how you will create the WBS from the elements listed in the scope statement, and it also describes how to obtain approval for and maintain the WBS.

The approved project scope statement is the document you will use to define and organize the work of the project in the WBS.

Decomposing the WBS Deliverables

The Create WBS process consists of two tools and techniques, decomposition and expert judgment.


This involves breaking down the deliverables into smaller, more manageable components of work. The idea here is to break down the deliverables to a point where you can easily plan, execute, monitor and control, and close out the project deliverables.

The composition typically pertains to breaking the deliverables down into smaller deliverables, or component deliverables, where each level of the WBS, or each level of decomposition, is a more detailed definition of the level above it.

The breaking down or decomposing process will accomplish several tasks for you, one of which is improving estimates.

It is easier to estimate the costs, time, and resources needed for individual work components, then it is to estimate them for a whole body of work or deliverable.

Also, assigning resources and responsibility for the components of work, makes better sense because several resources with different skills might be needed to complete one Deliverable.

Breaking them down the sewers that and assignments, and the responsibility for that assignment, goes to the proper parties.

The PMBOK Guide five-step decomposition process

Step one. Identify the deliverables and work

This step involves identifying all the major project deliverables and related work. You can use the expert judgment technique to analyze the project scope statement and identify the major deliverables.

Step two. Organize the WBS

This step involves organizing the work of the project and determining the WBS structure.

Step three. Decompose the WBS components into lower level components

WBS components, like the deliverables and requirements, should be defined intangible, verifiable terms so that performance and successful completion or delivery are easily measured and verified. Each component must clearly describe the product, service, or result in verifiable terms, and it must be assigned to a unit in the organization that will take responsibility for completing the work and making certain of its accuracy.

Step four. Assigned identification codes

This step is a process where you assigned identification codes or numbers to each of the WBS components.

Step five. Verified the WBS

This step is a verification step. Exam and the decomposition to determine whether all the components are clear and complete. Determine whether each component listed is necessary to fulfill the requirements of the deliverable, and verify that the decomposition is sufficient to describe the work.

You will not normally perform this process alone, as that is where the expert judgment tool and technique comes into play. You will work with others such as team members, stakeholders, all the experts with specific training or industry knowledge, those who have worked on similar projects in the past, and industry aids such as templates.

You can unplug the components you and the team have identified into the WBS. This may sound like a lot of work, but it is essential to project success.

If you do not perform the WBS process adequately and accurately, you may end up having a sound project. As a minimum, you will get lots of project changes, delayed shared roles, and increased costs, not to mention all those team members being the boss to redo much of the work that they have already completed.

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