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How to create a Work Breakdown Structure

For any project management, it’s important to learn the tips to create a work breakdown structure. This helps you navigate and finish the project efficiently from start to end. Whether you are an expert or a beginner you need to have a structure for your work. The WBS may sound like something that is only for Project managers. Nevertheless, the truth is that even the other project stakeholders need it.

Work breakdown structure is a fundamental tool in any project. There are many other tools in project management. This at times confuses users on which is which. For this article, we are going to look at the WBS. We will learn how to create a work breakdown structure and why you need to have it in every project. Furthermore, we will discuss its importance mostly in a website development project.

What is a Work Breakdown Structure?

The name says it all. A Work Breakdown Structure is a tool that starts with a large project and then breaks it down into smaller, more manageable pieces that a project manager can assign to different teams. This saves on time and resources like project costs. It also promotes creativity because the team members are given to work on their best part of the large project.

Rather than focusing on the whole work, the WBS allows for smaller milestones. The milestones and deliverables are easier to work on. Moreover, they offer effectiveness in management. Its core reason for use is to make a project more manageable. This is through breaking down the task into small chunks, so that they are easier for members to report the progress.

Rules to Create a WBS for Project Management

To create an effective work breakdown structure there are rules to guide the process. These rules will ensure you achieve the goal of breaking down complex tasks. Besides, that the rules are simple to understand. Here are the rules:

  1. Include all the levels of an activity that are useful to achieve the goal.
  2. Don’t assign a milestone or any work twice.
  3. After the breakdown, the outcomes are more important than the actions.
  4. After creating a work package, it should take less time to complete. This is in comparison to the time it will take when there are no breakdowns.
  5. Assign a work package to an individual or a group. Then ensure the group is only assigned another task after they complete the first one.

To create a work breakdown structure that is effective the above rules are key. For project management the project manager will easily control the milestones when the rules are effective. 

Creating a work breakdown structure

Why use a Work Breakdown Structure?

There are multiple reasons for using a WBS to break large projects. These reasons are evident to the stakeholders. Moreover, they affect the quality by boosting quality assurance. It is also useful to have a better scope from the first phase to the last phase of the work to be done. In a nutshell, the WBS helps to:

  1. Make appropriate estimates on time and cost of a project
  2. Helps the team to come up with timelines and develop the schedule
  3. Establish dependencies
  4. It facilitates reporting to the top management.
  5. Easily assign roles to the team members.
  6. Identify gaps and complex parts of the project that need more time.

These benefits come as a result of working with small tasks at a time. From this, you can accurately make decisions for the project with a clear view. These help you understand and interpret the smallest of activities in the management process.

How to create a work breakdown structure

Creating a work breakdown structure is a sequential process that requires keenness. This is to ensure the goal is achieved. For example, in a website development project, when creating a WordPress Plugin, you need to consider the process from design to publishing the site. Now in such a project, many activities need to be done. 

For the WBS to be fully functional and effective the team should use the following steps. This is a great step-by-step process and has proven to be a success. Here we go!

Define the Goals and objectives

Come up with the overall objective that you are intending to accomplish. The objective can be anything around your area of operation. It can be developing a new software feature or even undertaking a WordPress website Migration. So for such cases, the objectives are clear to develop a feature and undertake migration of the website. The goal is to have a new feature and a website on a new platform.

Outline the project scope

Now determine and list the specific project scope. Outline the rules defining the project scope. All this needs to be documented in a project charter and sent to the team members. When the project scope is in place it’s easier to make a better WBS. This will determine how to break down the project. 

For example, in WooCommerce payment integration is easier done as a common task. This is rather than breaking it down. It is also the case for an API. All this is understood from the scope.

List the project deliverables

A deliverable is something that can be provided. This is mainly a product or a feature in a development process. For example, in website development services, a header can be considered a deliverable in that scope. 

Thus, you need to list these deliverables down. The best way is to start with the top one in the hierarchy to the least. This is concerning the work timelines. After this identify the phases of the project.

Create Work Packages

Now take the above deliverable and break them down into smaller tasks. Divide them into single tasks and include sub-tasks where necessary. Note that for some deliverables you can take them a single work package, which is okay. For other smaller deliverables group related ones into a work package. 

Assign the tasks to team members

Now take the work packages and assign them to members of the team. Give the tasks to the skilled team members in that area. Give the members the resources needed for their distinct package. This makes it easy for them to work. Ensure that every member is aware of the objectives. This will ensure the final product is in-line with the goals set.

Tips to Create a Work Breakdown Structure

As you develop a work breakdown structure these tips will help you achieve more. The following are four vital tips to help you achieve more.

  • The 100% rule. In this tip, the purpose is to ensure 100% of everything in a task is related to the main goal. This goes ahead to state that the sub-task should add up to the main tasks.
  • Mutually exclusive. Don’t include any task twice. When you do this, it can lead to implementation problems when similarity arises. Moreover, it leads to spending time on unnecessary activities (repeated work).
  • Always focus on outcomes, not actions. It is essential to focus on the outcome. Check if it contributes to the main goals and objectives. For example, in a website development project, the deliverable can be payment integration. The actions would include adding payment details.
  • Every individual/ team should have a single task at any time. Depending on the task size you can have a team or an individual work on them. At any time, the members should be working on a single package. In case there are more packages. Then they should be assigned after completion of their previous role.


Having a work breakdown structure is vital for any company. This is important to deal with new features or update some features in an enterprise. The above steps will help you create better and more effective WBSs. The breakdown not only helps a distributed team work faster but also utilizes the available skill set. This ensures there are effective solutions in the production line.

Alex Founder Web Help Agency



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