The Project Group, LLC

The Project Group, LLC Newsletter

  Advancing Project Management

November 2002  


in this issue


Announcing A New Earned Value Course

The Project Group announces a one-day training course on Earned Value tailored to Information Technology projects. This intensive course equips experienced project managers and project control professionals to establish earned value tracking on their projects without elaborate systems or procedures. Through a facilitated series of exercises, participants learn the concepts, principles and techniques we have used successfully to institute earned-value tracking and controls on numerous software development projects. Students learn how familiar project management techniques such as work breakdown structures, resource-loaded schedules, and baseline disciplines are applied to create a powerful project diagnostic tool in an informal project environment.

The Nuts & Bolts of Project Management

We specialize in assisting corporate and government clients in learning to improve their productivity while planning and executing projects.

Our three-phase approach yields faster more efficient project initiation, planning and execution results.

We also offer a one-day class on Microsoft Project 2002TM for users wanting to improve their productivity in using the software.

We offer this monthly newsletter free to all who are interested. To subscribe, click on the link below.

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Each month our newsletter will delve into a specific step in the phases of Initiation, Planning and Execution of projects. Our methodology is applicable to any project in any industry. Our systematic approach to Project Management is designed to help your company's projects gain traction quickly, communicate clearly to all parties and keep it on track to reach a successful conclusion.

This newsletter focuses on Process 4: Determining Tasks by creating a Work Breakdown Structure within the Planning phase.





What is a WBS?


WBS stands for Work Breakdown Structure. A WBS is a group of tasks consisting of a single action verb, a named lead person, and a single deliverable. It is a graphic tool that can be converted into a text format. It readily shows the breadth and detail of project tasks. But, it does not show tasks in sequence.

A WBS is best created by all team members. It is a dynamic document that becomes the rudder of all project management planning and tracking.


How Do We Create A WBS?


1st - Gather the core team members in a room with Post-Its and pens

2nd - Explain this is a brainstorming session with the purpose of writing down all the tasks they can think of that are necessary to complete the project

3rd - On each Post-It write a short description of the task and who they think should be the "Task Owner" (The task owner need not be the one doing the work, but rather is the person the project manager would go to to obtain estimates).

4th - Decide with the group what the major categories of tasks will be.

If your project was to build a house those categories might be trade categories:





If it were a Gourmet Meal it could be based on major deliverables:



Main Course


These general categories are nouns and are known as Level 1 tasks. When complete your WBS will look something like an organization chart.

There are two approaches to WBS creation, the Top- Down Approach and the Bottom-Up Approach. Managers, business people, analysts are often whole-to-part thinkers and use the Top-Down Approach. They begin with major categories and break those into sub- categories or tasks (Level 2) and keep breaking the task down to the desired detail level. The Bottom-Up Approach is often used by techincal staff, programmers who are part-to-whole thinkers.

Click here for slides depicting the Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches


What Does A WBS Look Like?



Should We Code the WBS?


If your project team elects to code each WBS element the following benefits are obtained:

The WBS is formalized

It helps define change. A Scope Change = New WBS Elements

In project management software it allows sorting by the WBS as well as sequence, or cost control numbers

It provides a useful task shorthand

Level 1 tasks may be assigned letters or numbers. Level 2 and lower tasks are assigned numbers. For example if building a house is the project, carpentry is a Level 1 task and could be designated as category A. Level two tasks that follow carpentry could be Task A-1 Framing walls; Task A-1.1 Framing exterior walls; Task A-1.2 Framing interior walls, etc.


A Word About PM Software and Coding






Use a WBS to identify all project tasks

Create a more granular WBS to control scope and schedule

Break down until each task has single owner, single deliverable and is easy to estimate

Use either a top-down or a bottom-up approach to create the WBS

If it's not in the WBS it's not in the project!

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