Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) in Project Management

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Definition of Work Breakdown Structure

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a widely applied tool in the field of project management which is defined as the hierarchical decomposition framework for presenting the work that needs to be executed by the team, in order to achieve the project objectives. (ISO 21500 Standard, p. 18). Specifically, it creates the backbone of the project and provides a clear visual overview of the work to be completed. WBS is a tool that gives the ability to the project team to develop the project schedule and the resource requirements, to estimate and control the cost, while at the same time to minimize the number of unexpected situations. Therefore, the main purpose of WBS is to organize the team’s work into manageable sections and define the total scope of the project.


The Work Break Down Structure (WBS) was developed during 1960s by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under the two main pillars of ‘’planning’’ and ‘’controlling’’ the large projects they were responsible for, in order to provide the best quality. Specifically, on June 1962, NASA and DoD published a document regarding PERT/COST which was the first approach to the Work Breakdown Structure. It is worth pointing out, that this guide was adopted in all services as a military standard across DoD [1] . In 1987, this approach of WBS was documented from the Project Management Institute (PMI) in order to provide a generic concept of these techniques for non-defense organizations. Ergo, the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide provides an overview of WBS approach for general application through the organizations.

Tools and Techniques


WBS Example

Advantages and limitations of using WBS


  1. DOD and NASA Guide, PERT/COST System Design, June 1962
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