Three Terrific Tricks Work Wonders for WBS

wbs-post-itThe Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) defines the total scope of the project. The deliverables in the WBS will lead to the realization of the project objectives. If you do it right, you’ll be alright; do it wrong and your career won’t be so long.

1. Get stacks of 3” x 3” Post-its® of varying colours, preferably one colour per team (or department).

2. Ask each team to write, in “verb-noun format”, one task per Post-it on what they need to do to help achieve the project objectives (e.g., interview users).

3. Ask the project team to arrange the Post-its by work packages or by phases. Add additional tasks as needed. Finish off by adding milestones using the “noun-verb past-tense format” (e.g., interviews completed).

By using these tricks, you’ll expedite team development—strong involvement and commitment—and also highlight the interdependencies.

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5 thoughts on “Three Terrific Tricks Work Wonders for WBS

  • 2009-05-14 at 09:33

    John –

    Another simple, yet profound, posting. I find SO much value in getting the people that are actually going to do the work to participate in building the WBS. Some think that the PM should be able to distill the SOW, Requirements and Design into a manageable WBS.

    Without the participation of the working groups, it’s a shot in the dark.

    – Scott

  • 2009-05-14 at 09:35

    John – a follow-up question for you:

    How would you recommend implementing this approach with distributed teams?

    My work teams are sprinkled throughout the USA, and sometimes are overseas. Have you had any success with online/virtual tools to achieve a similar goal?

    – Scott

  • 2009-05-14 at 10:01

    Scott, you need to bring the leaders of the virtual teams into one location at least once, preferably at the very beginning of the project, so that they can match faces to names. It is very important to do that for team building purposes. After that, team leaders can further decompose the WBS into smaller packages and/or tasks with their remote teams.

    If that is not possible, schedule a video conference with the team leaders to explain the process and then have them apply the same technique with their remote teams. You can then consolidate and finalize the WBS after that process.

  • 2010-02-27 at 20:58

    Thanks for pointing this to me John. It was points #2 and #3 that I was stuck on. I’m hoping that by moving towards having the team invovled in this step as part of the kickoff, that I will get more buy in and understanding from all stakeholders.

    I’m scheduled to go onsite in three weeks and I’ll let you know how it goes.


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