Project Management Guide:

What is Work Breakdown Structure?

Work Breakdown Structure

When it comes to executing a project one of the most important aspects is the work breakdown structure. This is a process by which the project can actually be broken down and better understood as well as being better executed. But do you fully understand what this type of structure is and just how it works? We’re going to talk about all of the steps and the process that goes along with it. You’ll be able to complete projects much easier within your company if you know how to make the most of the work breakdown process.

What is Work Breakdown Structure

First, let’s dive into a little more of what work breakdown structure actually is. This type of structure involves taking a closer look at your project and working from there. Once you know what the project itself is, you’re going to need to understand what it takes to consider that project a success. That’s where the breakdown comes in. You need to break the project down into smaller steps. Know what needs to be completed, at what time and how it needs to be done. So, you’re going to create tasks within your project and then, if needed, you’re going to create subtasks.

Within this structure you’re also going to need to know exactly when everything should be accomplished by, that’s where the structure part comes in. You’re also creating a schedule. Also, you should know how much it’s going to cost to provide each of the different steps, tasks, and deliverables that go along with the project. By the time you’re done creating this structure, you should have a solid understanding of everything it’s going to take for the project to be completed to the specifications needed.

Who Needs Work Breakdown Structure?

The answer is that anyone who wants to streamline their project execution process needs a work breakdown structure. This type of system is going to make things easier for just about anyone that needs to create a project and it doesn’t need to only be used by people who are in charge of the whole system. While managers, bosses, team leaders, and other high power individuals can use this structure to help delegate tasks and interact with a team, individuals can use these processes as well.

Team leaders, at any level of the organization, can use this structure to determine each of the tasks and subtasks in a project. From there, they can use this structure to delegate each of the tasks and determine who will be responsible for them. This is an important part of the process of pitching something to a client or an even higher level individual within the organization. But what about the individual people working for the company? How can it work for them?

Work breakdown structure can be used to breakdown absolutely anything you’re working on. If you’re given a task to accomplish chances are you have several smaller tasks to do in order to reach that ultimate assignment. If you need to design a bathroom for the remodeling project then you first need to do your research and know the size of the space and the layout of the plumbing and electrical. You need to know the budget available and you’ll need to estimate costs for building materials and the pieces that will need to go into the structure. Fleshing out the different steps can be useful for you as well, so you don’t miss a step.

Anyone at all can use this type of structure to create a more cohesive system and to ensure that they aren’t missing steps when working on a project. Even freelancers can work with this structure to make sure that they are budgeting their time appropriately. You can create a chart of what it will take to create the content or deliverable that you’re working on. From there, you can budget out what each task is worth and create offers for your time and efforts.

Why It Works

So, why is this an important step in your process? Well, there are a few things that you should know and a few important reasons that you should be using this process. The first is to make sure that you know exactly what needs to be done. When you create a work breakdown structure you’re starting with the top piece, the ultimate deliverable, and breaking it down into smaller deliverables until you get to the individual tasks and subtasks that need to be completed. That means, when you use this system, you’re not going to be able to forget any of the steps that are involved.

Next, you’re going to have a better understanding of the timeline that you’re going to need. Because you’re breaking down into each and every step you know how long those steps should take and you know which tasks can be completed simultaneously and where your team is going to be waiting for each other. This gives you a better understanding of what’s going on and makes sure that you’re not going to be overwhelmed with a deadline that you thought was realistic until you got deep into the middle of the project.

You’re also going to have a much better understanding of the specific budget you need because, again, you’re going to have a better understanding of the tasks needed. As you can look at each task and evaluate the supplies and equipment needed as well as the size of the team that you’re creating, you’re going to have a much better chance of creating a realistic budget. This is going to make your company happier and it’s going to make the client happier.

After all, you’re not going to be shortchanging anyone if you have a better idea of what to charge in the first place.
Finally, you’re going to know how to create the team that you need to execute the tasks. If you know all of the tasks and assignments that need to be carried out for your project you’re going to know who in your organization needs to be responsible for those tasks. Then, you can assign each task to the right person and make sure that it’s getting done the way you would expect. It’s going to make for a much better outcome for everyone involved because they’re all notified of the project early on, even if their task isn’t needed for a while.

How to Execute Work Breakdown Structure

Okay, so now we know that it’s important and we know that there are several areas where it’s going to make your life easier, but how are you going to get it started? Luckily, it’s an easy process to get started and before you know it you can be doing this in your sleep. After all, that’s the whole point of optimizing your work structure, right? You want to make sure that you’ll have no problem following the same process going forward, no matter what it is that you’re working on next.

1. Know the Ultimate Goal

Step one is going to be knowing what the ultimate goal of your project is. Talk with your client or your boss (if they’re the one interacting with the client for you) and define what the scope of your project is and how you’re going to get there. Then, start discussing with your team and figure out what the different things are that your team needs to provide in order to get to that ultimate goal. What items or services are needed to get to that point?

2. Know the Tasks Required

Next, you’re going to talk with your team about the different tasks that are required in order to make sure all of the items or services to get to the ultimate goal are provided. This is where you’re going to break things down even further and create tasks and subtasks. Your team and you should be able to figure out what the tasks are, how to do them properly and what is going to make the entire process as simple as possible. You’re trying to be as realistic about the timeline as possible, so make sure you include everything you can to get an accurate idea.

3. Know-How to Execute Tasks

From there, you’re going to break things down even further. You should have at least three levels of points all the way down your list. Your ultimate goal should be at the top. Under that should be deliverables that need to be provided in order to get to that ultimate goal. Under each of those deliverables should be tasks that need to be performed to get there. And under those should be subtasks, which is where this step comes in. You should have subtasks that really get down to the bedrock of what your project needs in order to be successful.

4. Set It Up

Now you want to make sure that everything is easy to read and understand by your entire team. If you leave it in your first form it may not be. This is where InstaGantt can help you. When you’re ready to lay out all of the tasks that your project needs you can do it with these charts that will not only allow you to create as many tasks and subtasks as you want but will also help you to assign the tasks and deadlines that you need for each person to achieve the ultimate goal.

5. Discuss With the Client

Once you’ve got it all figured out and you know how long it’s going to take, how much it’s going to cost and what all needs to be done, this is a good time to talk to the client. Layout the plan including budget and timeline to achieve everything that they want to accomplish. From there, you’ll be able to see if everything fits into what they want. You can make sure that you understand the ultimate goal and that the budget and timeline are going to fit what they need. If not, you proceed to step 6. If so, proceed to step 7.

6. Revamp the Plan

If the client needs a smaller budget or a shorter timeline you’ll need to cut some areas of your plan. If they’re willing to extend the budget or timeline in order to accomplish more or receive more then you need to add in some areas of the plan. This is the step where you’re going to start making some adjustments and you’ll need to go back and forth with the client a little more. You want to make sure that you have everything laid out in a way that works for them and for you.

7. Flesh Out the Details

If everything is acceptable to the client, this is where you’re going to dive into setting timelines and deadlines. You’re also going to set budgets for each of the different tasks that are happening. You also want to make sure that you assign every task to a person so that everyone knows what they’re responsible for. Then, speak to each person individually and let them know what tasks they’re responsible for and how long they have to get them done. Show them the chart and make sure they know how to operate it so they can check in as they complete different tasks.


In the end, a work breakdown structure makes a big difference in any organization and it makes a big difference in any working system. By executing the process properly, it’s possible to create an ideal gantt chart system that really helps to get the work done right. You won’t have to worry about underestimating the timeline or the budget this way, and that makes for a happier team and a happier client as well. After all, no one wants to be told that their project is over-budget or that there’s no way to make the deadline. And that’s what this structure is going to help you to avoid.

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