We’ve all heard it the old joke “how do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time.”

One of the more common questions we see from newer Project Managers is “where do I start? I have a project, I know the scope, but I’m not sure what the next step is.”

The next step is to develop a WBS, a Work Breakdown Structure.

“Develop” is actually a misnomer as the process of creating the WBS involves breaking down the project into it’s component parts (decomposition).

In this process, the PM and his/her team is going to dissect the project into the individual parts (deliverables) required to complete it. This could included parts done by other teams, outside vendors, or the team itself. The key point is that breaking down the project into smaller pieces makes the whole more manageable.

Not only are smaller parts easier to manage, but it makes tracking and scheduling much easier. By breaking it down you’re able to see the inter-relationships between pieces better, to find constraints and dependencies. It’s also easier to see potential issues, and to see how they might impact the project.

This structure also makes tracking and reporting easier. It’s easier to gauge progress on individual pieces vs the project as a whole.

Another key benefit is the potential of identifying deliverables that might rightfully be projects themselves.

So, are you developing a WBS, or are you trying to eat the elephant whole?

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