Project Central Task List
March 4, 2021

How to create a WBS to improve project performance?

By Brian McHale

Every business needs someone to delegate tasks and ensure that things get done by a given deadline, or that things are at least together enough for a team to make adjustments if necessary.

Using project management techniques is a game-changer when it comes to getting things done in tight deadlines.

Strictly speaking, project management involves the following steps for an ongoing or one-time undertaking:

  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Implementation
  • Organization
  • Quality control.


Why Project Management is Important?

Project management allows you​ to identify and achieve the goals and objectives that help to move your company forward in its endeavours.

A project is “temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources”.

Managing projects allows you to achieve your goals by detailing the steps to:

  • Track tasks
  • Communicate and delegate your needs to your team, and give your client/partner timely updates
  • Save time simply looking for the next to-do list, thus improving efficiency
  • Prevent last-minute emergencies caused by not adhering to the plan.


What If I’m Not Familiar With Project Management?

That’s fine! Not all organizations have a designated project manager.

There are still many strategies you can employ if the task falls on you.

Here are some of our best tips for people who find themselves in the unforeseen circumstance of having to manage a project:

Define the project. Have a conversation about what the project is. Ask the following questions about:

  • Your client’s objectives? What end result do they expect?
  • The parameters or key performance indicators (KPIs) will they use to measure whether or not you are succeeding at meeting the established objective?
  • Their budget and timeframe?
  • The project’s scope?


Document these conversations and make sure that everything is clear before you move on to the next step: a work breakdown structure.

Brainstorm with your stakeholders and team members.

This creates ownership, allows for buy-in, and helps everyone contribute ideas.

If you work in a large company, then perhaps limit a brainstorming session to only one or two representatives from a given department or select only a few key members.

An entire team of people will be required to complete the project.

It’s only fair to consult with a diverse enough array of people to come up with a great plan.

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Use Lists, Boards, and Gantt charts to plan and manage your timeline!

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What is a Work Breakdown Structure?

There are many ways to engage in project management, but we’ve found that a work breakdown structure (WBS) is one of the most helpful.

A WBS is a visual way to keep track of a project and track easily track its progress.

One of the benefits of this system is that it allows you to reverse engineer your process if need be, allowing you and your team to correct any steps.

The WBS Breakdown Structure is often used with a visual aid called the Gantt chart, which allows you to list tasks, steps, start, end dates, and more parameters in rows, while also keeping track of dates visually in columns.

You can customize the chart slightly with colors as needed, and you will end up with a step-ladder like visual after completing all tasks.

Simplify task management with Project Central

Use Lists, Boards, and Gantt charts to plan and manage your timeline!

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Organizing a Work Breakdown Structure

The great thing about a WBS is that you can use resources such as our template, and then work to organize them in ways that have been used by project managers for years now.

No need to reinvent the wheel! Typically, there are four levels.

  • The top level. What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the project?
  • Main deliverables (tasks that help you along with your goal) and phases of the project, also called a controls account.
  • Tasks that help you get to your main deliverables, often referred to as the work package.
  • Activities. This is a breakdown of steps needed to help you along with the work package.


There are also different kinds of WBS.

  • Phase-based. This type of WBS outlines the top level (final deliverables, or end results) first. It then lists the five phases of completing a project.
    • Start
    • Planning
    • Implementation
    • Control
    • Project End
  • Deliverable-based. Looks at the project’s scope and expected deliverables.
  • Time-phased. Long-term projects are broken down into phases.
  • Verb-based. A list of actions that helps you complete project deliverables.
  • Noun-based. Looks at all components of a project and lists these.


Why is a Work Breakdown Structure Important?

Creating a WBS is important because it allows you and your client to assess the resources, time, and objectives once more. Why is this important?

  • Clients have many dream projects, but resources, time, and energy are finite.
  • A work breakdown structure helps you both get a transparent process together and visualize the task breakdown required to achieve all goals.
  • You’ll be able to prioritize tasks and also find ways to complete the project using the most efficient methods, hopefully saving both time and money. This is called finding the critical path.


The WBS also exposes other issues, such as:

  • Timeline issues. You may need longer to complete the project than previously estimated.
  • Budget deficits. The scope of the projects and desired outcomes may require your client to invest a bit more than previously thought.
  • Labor issues. The project at hand may be harder to complete than previously understood.


These finding deserve a second conversation so you make any adjustments, such as creating a new timeline, budget, or list of resources.

Clarify all of these issues before committing to the project so you can prevent future problems such as:

  • Late deadlines
  • Going over budget
  • Constant unreasonable changes that weren’t previously discussed


What to Include in Your WBS

A WBS can be customized to your needs, but most good ones include things such as:

  • A glossary/dictionary. This is a separate document of all phases and expectations in the project. It allows everyone involved to fully understand what is going on at all times.
  • Status. This allows everyone to see the status of a given task. (In-Progress, Late, Completed, etc).
  • Task owner, or the name of the person/department in charge of completing the given task.
  • Description and number of the task. Giving your tasks a name, number, and description communicates expectations and lets people easily identify every step.
  • Dependency. Some things can only be completed after other tasks are done with. This is where you keep track of interdependent or multi-step tasks.
  • Task cost. Keep track of all costs of your tasks in dollar value. This prevents you from going over your budget.
  • Estimates, Start, and End Times/Dates. Assign start and end times for each task and include an estimation of how long you think the task should take.


Remember: you should review this portion of your plan with your team and stakeholders.

Do not propose a project with only a first-draft WBS.

Allow a few voices to guide you as to whether your current plan needs adjusting.

This lets you come up with a realistic plan everyone can adhere to, and allows space to communicate whether or not proposed timelines and expectations are realistic to pursue.

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