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How to create a work breakdown structure and a project schedule that are realistic and flexible

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A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a project management tool that decomposes the total scope of work required to deliver a product, service, or project into smaller, more manageable components. A WBS is a snapshot of all the work stakeholders and teams need to complete to successfully finish a project. You’ll use it as a basis for planning projects and identifying and organizing project phases and deliverables.

A project schedule is a timeline that shows when each task in the project should start and finish, taking into account the dependencies, resources, and deadlines involved. A project schedule helps you monitor and control the progress of your project and communicate it to your team and stakeholders.

What is a work breakdown structure (WBS) in project management?

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a visual, hierarchical and deliverable-oriented deconstruction of a project. It is a helpful diagram for project managers because it allows them to break down their project scope and visualize all the tasks required to complete their projects.

Depending on the size and complexity of your project, you may have more or fewer levels in your WBS. The rule of thumb is to break down your project until you reach a level where each work package can be assigned to one person or team, can be completed within a reasonable time frame (usually less than 80 hours), and can be measured by a specific output or outcome.

What is a project schedule in project management?

A project schedule is a timeline that shows when each task in the project should start and finish, taking into account the dependencies, resources, and deadlines involved. A project schedule helps you monitor and control the progress of your project and communicate it to your team and stakeholders.

How to create a project schedule for your project

To create a project schedule for your project, you can follow these steps:

  1. Define the tasks or activities for your project. You can use your WBS as a starting point and add more details if needed. You should have a clear description, owner, and deliverable for each task or activity.
  2. Estimate the duration or effort for each task or activity. You can use various techniques such as expert judgment, analogous estimation, parametric estimation, three-point estimation, or bottom-up estimation to calculate how long each task or activity will take. You should also consider factors such as availability, productivity, quality, risk, and contingency when estimating durations.
  3. Identify the dependencies or relationships between tasks or activities. You can use a network diagram or a precedence diagram to visualize how your tasks or activities are linked together. You should also identify any constraints or assumptions that may affect your dependencies, such as external dependencies, mandatory dependencies, discretionary dependencies, or internal dependencies.
  4. Create a baseline for your project schedule. A baseline is a snapshot of your original plan that you can use to compare against your actual progress and performance. You can use a software tool such as Microsoft Project, Excel, or Asana to create your baseline by entering your tasks or activities, their durations or efforts, their dependencies or relationships, and their milestones or key events.
  5. Review and update your project schedule. You should monitor and control your project schedule throughout the project life cycle by tracking the actual start and finish dates, the percentage of completion, the variance, and the earned value for each task or activity. You should also communicate your project schedule to your team and stakeholders regularly by using reports, dashboards, charts, or graphs.

How to make your work breakdown structure and project schedule realistic and flexible

Creating a work breakdown structure and a project schedule is not a one-time activity. It is an iterative process that requires constant review and adjustment to reflect the reality and changes of your project. Here are some tips to make your WBS and project schedule realistic and flexible:

– Involve your team and stakeholders in creating and validating your WBS and project schedule. They can provide valuable input, feedback, suggestions, and insights that can improve the accuracy and completeness of your plan.

– Use historical data and lessons learned from previous projects to inform your estimates and assumptions. You can also use benchmarking or industry standards to compare your plan with similar projects.

– Use agile methods such as Scrum or Kanban to break down your project into smaller iterations or sprints that deliver value incrementally.

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Works Cited:

(1) Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): What Is It? [2023] • Asana. https://asana.com/resources/work-breakdown-structure

(2) Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): An Overview, Uses, Software. https://www.coursera.org/articles/work-breakdown-structure

(3) What Is a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) In Project Management? https://www.projectmanager.com/guides/work-breakdown-structure

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