Develop WBS Checklist

Project managers are typically responsible for producing the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) for a project.  The WBS is a key part of project planning. The project manager produces this deliverable with assistance from key project team members and stakeholders. They work together to subdivide major project deliverables and the associated project work into smaller, more manageable components. The WBS should then reviewed and approved by the project sponsor and/or senior management to make sure that it reflects both the project and the product scope.

Here is a quick checklist to help you develop your project’s WBS. It should help you verify that the WBS accurately defines both project and product scope.

Is project scope required to achieve the project objectives included?  Make sure that all project activities are included, including project management activities as well as more technical project work activities.

Can an owner be assigned for each WBS activity and deliverable?  Each item on the WBS should be assignable to the project team member who is responsible for performing and reporting on that work.

Are the tasks or deliverables the proper size to support resource and duration estimating?  Break the WBS tasks down to a level of detail low enough that estimates can be developed with the desired level of precision.

Has the WBS been created to the work package level to control the project?  A WBS containing too few tasks or deliverables limits project control, and a WBS with too many items must be over-controlled by the PM.

Do activities and deliverables have unique, understandable names?  Make activity and deliverable names self-explanatory and unique so that there is no confusion about what is being accomplished and created.

Is the end of the project clearly defined?  The point at which the project is complete (final product, service, or result produced) should be clear.

Are all project management activities across all knowledge areas included?  Don’t overlook project management activities; they are also part of delivering the project’s scope.

Are lower-level activities/deliverables subsets of their parents?  Typically the lowest-level WBS tasks are in the project schedule, so a clear, unambiguous hierarchical relationship across the WBS is critical.

Are external products and activities included in the WBS?  There may be external dependencies for the project that impact project scope and success, and they should be part of the WBS.

Are milestones included?  Milestones are included in the WBS as a means of tracking high-level progress on the project once it’s underway.

I hope you find this checklist helpful!  Happy project planning!

Susan Weese

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