In 2022, a work-breakdown structure is one of the most effective tools for project management. Find out how to use the framework to lead projects, coordinate teams, and drive higher business results.

Great project managers are the glue that holds everything together. They’re the ones making sure everyone is aligned — updating the status, keeping up with communication, and streamlining the project from start to finish.

Whether you hold this role within a company or you’re a solopreneur looking for better ways to manage projects, then the work-breakdown structure (WBS) will be your go-to method.

What Is a Work-Breakdown Structure in Project Management — and Why Does It Work?

Essentially, a work-breakdown structure (WBS) is a step-by-step approach to completing large projects. 

The tool splits the overall workload into smaller tasks, making it less daunting, more manageable, and far easier to understand who’s doing what.

By breaking down the structure, you can outline and track the most important aspects of the project: 

  • Scope: purpose, goals, and due dates
  • Budget: costs, expenses, and resources
  • Stages: all phases involved in the project
  • Deliverables: what will be created and submitted (e.g. website, financial modeling, marketing email campaign, etc.)
  • Milestones: key moments in the project (e.g. an app starting beta testing phases)

As a result, the tool helps the leader oversee the process with clarity and the team execute tasks systematically.

How to Create a Work-Breakdown Structure

1. Define the Scope

Firstly, establish the overall goal of the project. What result do you want to achieve?

For example, let’s say you want to give your business a new look. Your objective could be: Company rebranding.

Moving forward, your project goal will serve as “Level 1” in the WBS — the source of all other tasks.

2. Establish Primary Deliverables

After that, outline what materials the team will produce through the project.

To continue the example, a company rebranding project could include deliverables like:

3. Break Down into Smaller Tasks and/or Stages

Next, move down the work-breakdown structure with the different project management stages at hand.

Alternatively, for smaller projects, dive into the series of tasks that have to be completed.

A few examples of tasks in the context of rebranding could be:

  • Present drafts for logo options
  • Troubleshoot UX design
  • Select branded quotes for graphics
  • Identify new store products
  • Publish and print brand guide

Depending on how many tasks or stages the project requires, continue with the second and third levels of the WBS. Each sub-task should be tied to the previous one it branches out from.

Break down tasks until no further decomposition is needed.

4. Assign Team Members

Here’s where your leadership skills can truly shine. No matter how many people are on your team, you’re the one who knows each person’s strengths best.

Therefore, your job here is to delegate all tasks to the appropriate team members.

Let’s say you have three graphic designers on your team, each with a different level of experience. You could assign duties as follows:

  • Senior designer: logo
  • Mid-level: merch design
  • Junior: quote graphics for social media

5. Track Status Until Complete

As the project develops, your role is to make sure everything stays on track. If someone isn’t up to speed, you risk slowing down the progress of the entire project.

Record all tasks, deliverables, and phases so you ensure completion — on time and on budget.

But at the end of the day, regardless of what tools you use, you can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself.

That’s why my team and I created our Scaling and Leadership Execution Workshop. Join us to learn not only how you can 10X your project management skills but also how to build high-performing teams and increase your revenue as a result of exceptional leadership.

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