WBS – Work Breakdown Structure in Project Management

Understand the meaning of WBS in project management

WBS is a method of project management and is essential for the smooth progress of a project. It is necessary to understand the features of WBS and how to create it to make the most of it in practice.

Also, if you learn about Gantt charts, which are closely related to WBS, you will be able to use them in a way that takes advantage of their respective features. This article will explain in detail the key points to improve the accuracy of project management.

Table of contents:

  • What is WBS in project management?
    • Purpose of WBS
    • Advantages of WBS
    • Points to note when using a WBS
  • Relationship between WBS and Gantt chart
  • How to create a WBS
    • Clarifying the purpose
    • Identifying necessary tasks
    • Structuring and grasping the whole
    • Checking by multiple people
  • Managing WBS with tools
    • Managing WBS with Excel
    • Managing WBS using a project management tool
  • Summary

What is WBS in project management?

WBS stands for Work Breakdown Structure and is a method used to achieve the goals of a project.

Purpose of WBS

The purpose of WBS is to break down the work required for a project and capture it systematically. The larger the scale of the project, the more difficult it is to grasp the whole picture. Therefore, once the work is broken down into smaller pieces, it can be assembled to achieve highly accurate project management.

By clarifying the tasks of the members participating in the project, you will be able to manage the schedule without waste, which will ultimately lead to the achievement of your goals. If a problem occurs, WBS will help you quickly identify the cause of the problem and keep the project running smoothly.

Advantages of WBS

One of the advantages of using a WBS is that it makes it easier to manage personnel and schedules. 

By subdividing each task, you can understand the time and personnel required for each and build a detailed schedule.

By breaking down the work into smaller pieces, you can accurately determine the number of hours needed and eliminate wasted resources. 

It also prevents misunderstandings between the members responsible for the work, which leads to the prevention of work leakage.

Points to note when using a WBS

While WBS is useful for understanding the time and effort required for individual tasks, some aspects are not suitable for analyzing future work.

If you try to break down tasks with insufficient information, there is a risk of misalignment when you proceed with the work.

Therefore, it is important not to subdivide unclear tasks forcibly but to break them down gradually as the work progresses. In addition, it is good to prepare a buffer in case of discrepancies so that you can respond flexibly to any problems that may arise.

Instead of creating a schedule unnecessarily, create a standard for using WBS for each project and manage it appropriately.

Relationship between WBS and Gantt chart

A Gantt chart is a timetable for grasping the progress of a project, and it is suitable for grasping the entire situation at a glance. Typically, we use work on the vertical axis and start date and completion date on the horizontal axis.

On the other hand, WBS is a list of tasks broken down one by one, and it is possible to grasp the content and duration of work required for a project. However, it is not as easy to understand as a Gantt chart, so it is important to use it in conjunction with Gantt charts.

It is efficient to identify individual tasks in the WBS and combine them with the time axis to create a Gantt chart.

How to create a WBS

The first step in creating a Gantt chart is to create a WBS. 

Let's take a closer look at the steps you should take to create it.

Clarifying the objective

The first step in project management is to clarify what the final objective is. 

If you don't have a clear idea of what you want to do, you can't decide what work you need to do and how long it will take.

It is important to communicate well among the project members to clarify the final goal.

Identifying the necessary tasks

Once the final goal has been determined, identify the tasks that are necessary to achieve the goal. To eliminate duplication of work and unnecessary work, break down each task into smaller pieces.

Rather than thinking about the work process from the beginning, it is also a good idea to find areas for improvement based on previous projects you have worked on them. It is important to set standards to ensure that the number of tasks does not increase unnecessarily.

Structuring and grasping the whole

Once you have identified the individual tasks, try to put them together to get a complete picture of the project. After checking for any omissions or duplication of work, proceed to create a concrete schedule and estimate the hours required.

Checking with multiple people

Since a project involves multiple members, sharing information can affect the success or failure of the project. Therefore, when creating the WBS, try to check it with more than one person.

Receiving the opinions and advice of other members can prevent omissions from occurring. Also, having a common understanding of the project will make it easier to work on it smoothly.

Managing the WBS with tools

It is important to use tools to make the WBS work well. There are two ways to manage your WBS: using Excel and using a project management tool.

Managing WBS with Excel

WBS can be created and managed in Excel. The advantage of using Excel is that it costs very little and is easy to implement. 

It can be used with other data and can be easily customized to incorporate only the necessary functions.

Macros can be used to automate complex operations, so let's make good use of them. On the other hand, it can be difficult to control quality and analyze data, and it can be difficult to share information with other members.

In addition, if the scale of the project is large, it may become complicated to manage.

Using a WBS template

You don't have to create a WBS from scratch. There are free and paid templates on the Internet, so you can use the one that suits you best. By comparing different templates, you will be able to identify what features you need.

Managing WBS using a project management tool

Another way to create and use a WBS is to use a project management tool. It can be costly to implement these tools, but it's a great benefit to get started right away.

In addition, it is possible to link with project management methods such as Gantt charts in a cross-sectional manner, enabling more reliable project management and making it easier to analyze.

There are also project management tools, which are free of charge during the trial period, so feel free to try using them first to see how they work.


WBS is a method of subdividing and assembling the tasks necessary to achieve the project goals, and it is beneficial for the smooth progress of the project. After understanding the difference between a WBS and a Gantt chart, it is important to follow the basic steps for creating a WBS.

It is also important to consider using project management tools to share project information with other members and eliminate misunderstandings about the work. Try to adopt a method to promote highly accurate project management.

See also:
Why do We Need Project Management?
Gantt Chart Project Management
Items Required for Project Management
10 Principles of Project Management for New Project Managers
Kanban Project Management

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