What Is Work Breakdown Structure in a Project?

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a tool in project management that allows project management professionals to break down the project into smaller tasks in order to increase productivity and make the work more manageable. The project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) guide defines work breakdown structure as a hierarchical layout of the tasks required for the project completion. 

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Why Use a WBS In Project Management?

To develop a project schedule, making a WBS is the most essential step as it helps in defining the order of the tasks to be completed in order to meet the goals and objectives of a project. 

By breaking down large and complex projects into smaller manageable tasks can help different project teams to focus on specific tasks rather than the entire project. This ensures that the project team meets the project scope, and efficiently allocates resources for different project tasks. 

A well-structured work breakdown structure can help the project team with the following:

  • Project planning
  • Project scheduling
  • Project budgeting
  • Risk management
  • Task management 
  • Team management

Moreover, work breakdown structure also helps in preventing common project management issues like cost overrun, missed deadlines, among others. Find out Is PMP Certification Worth It? In this detailed article.

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Purpose of the Work Breakdown Structure

The primary purpose of a work breakdown structure is project scheduling by defining the duration for each task followed by its subtasks. Therefore, with the help of WBS, a project manager can figure out how the project will progress and at the same time manage the workflow efficiently. 

Types of WBS

The two common types of work breakdown structures are: deliverable-based and phase-based. A project manager can divide the project on the basis of time or scope. 

1. Deliverable-based

A project manager using a deliverable-based work breakdown structure breaks down the project into manageable major areas of the project scope, and then further divides those into work packages and project deliverables. 

2. Phase-based

Phase-based work breakdown structure focuses on completing the project on the basis of five different phases of a project: 

  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Control
  • Closeout 

Then similar to deliverable-based. The phase-based WBS is divided into project deliverables and work packages. 

Components of WBS 

A work breakdown structure consists of the following components:

  • Tasks- title, description, and number ID of each task
  • Task owner- Whoever is responsive for a particular task of the WBS
  • Task dependency and predecessors- The task manager may link two tasks together if the completion of one depends on the other.
  • Start and end date of a task- Time estimate for each task completion.
  • Duration of the task- number of hours/days a task will take for completion.
  • Work estimation- number of hours/days required to complete the task.
  • Task status- Whether in progress, late, resources assigned, etc.
  • Gantt Chart – A graphical layout of the WBS.


A WBS is a great tool geared towards making the project more manageable and efficient. Every project manager makes use of a work breakdown structure to deal with and manage the challenges of a large-scale enterprise project and ultimately enjoy successful results.