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A Full Guide on How to Create a Work Breakdown Structure with Tips & Examples

This is a guide to what a work breakdown structure means, how to create one, why it is beneficial to do so, and know of a few WBS examples.

How To Create A Work Breakdown Structure

Taking a large project from start to finish is no easy task – there are several variables, tasks, and deliverables involved. That is exactly why you need a work breakdown structure. It is a foundational tool to help you plan, manage, and evaluate projects. A WBS is basically a map through complex projects as it breaks them down into smaller and more manageable sections that can be evaluated and assigned to teams. Instead of focusing on particular actions required to finish a project, a WBS targets the deliverables. In this article, you will learn more about work breakdown structure, how to make one using MioCreate, and find out how WBS can be helpful in different sectors. 

Table of Contents
What Is a Work Breakdown Structure?
Why Use a Work Breakdown Structure? 
How to Create a Work Breakdown Structure? 
8 Tips for Creating a Work Breakdown Structure
3 Work Breakdown Structure Examples 

What Is a Work Breakdown Structure?

Work breakdown structure or WBS is a diagram designed to help project managers break down project scope and visualize tasks required for completion. It is a visual, hierarchical and deliverable-oriented deconstruction of a project. It was developed by the US Department of Defense and NASA back in the 1960s, under the categories of planning and controlling for large projects.

In a WBS, every step of the project is outlined clearly, which includes the final project deliverable, tasks, and work packages on top of the diagram. The levels below subdivide the project scope to indicate the tasks, deliverables and work packages that are needed to complete the project from start to finish. It is the first step in developing a project schedule. It defines all the work that has to be completed, and in what specific order, for achieving goals and objectives. The structure should be internally consistent, and make sense to the team. When you visualize the project in this way, it helps you comprehend project scope and allocate resources for tasks accordingly.

Why Use a Work Breakdown Structure? 

There are several benefits of using a work breakdown structure, such as:

Identify all elements 

The work breakdown structure helps to generate a comprehensive project scope when there are tight deadlines and steep requirements. You won’t miss out on individual tasks or overlook deliverables. When tasks are broken down into their components, each task can be planned for in a much better way. It ensures every task is completed on time and within budget.

Improve communication

Detailed discussions ensure roles and responsibilities are clarified properly. Every level of the WBS breaks the work into smaller chunks, known as work packages, till it is no longer relevant to break it down further. People are clear on expectations, so as the project progresses the work package information serves to keep people on track with what they should be doing.

Minimize changes 

Once project objectives are clear, it translates to fewer changes during the execution phase. Some changes to the project deliverables are expected, but if you can minimize them, the better chances you have of meeting customer expectations and mitigating the impact of cost of change.

Allocate resources 

Each work package can be planned properly by individuals, who will identify how long the tasks take and the resources required for completing them. These include competence requirements, the number of staff, skill set, etc.

Boost efficiency 

When a standard WBS is used for project management, everyone involved can follow along with each step and know exactly where they stand with respective tasks. It increases efficiency by eliminating wasted time and effort that result from unnecessary meetings or disagreements.

Identify risks

A work breakdown structure detects risks at work package level, so that action can be taken accordingly. 

How to Create a Work Breakdown Structure? 

MioCreate can be used to create a smart and effective work breakdown structure as per requirements, with tools and techniques like mind mapping, brainstorming, and mood boards. Mood boards (digital and physical) effectively present your ideas, thoughts, and designs in an organized manner. Brainstorming sessions are apt for allowing free flow of thinking, which boosts creativity and can resolve problems as well. Mind mapping visually represents information in the form of a central node with various branches arising from it.


Take a look at how to create a WBS with MioCreate

Step 1: Outline goals and objectives, which set the rules for defining project scope. 

Step 2: The next phase is to break the larger project scope statement into a series of stages that goes from conception, planning, and execution, to completion. Create control accounts – these are task categories for various work areas.

Step 3: Chalk out your project deliverables, and note down the work required for those to be successfully executed.

Step 4: Setting WBS levels are very important, as they are a hierarchical deconstruction of the project scope. Begin at the final project deliverable, and work out the deliverables and work packages needed to get there from the start.

Step 5: Take deliverables and break down each task and subtask necessary. They have to be categorized into work packages.

Step 6: After tasks are laid out, assign each one to specific team members, allocate resources and decide which work management tools can be used. 

8 Tips for Creating a Work Breakdown Structure

Follow the 100% rule

The work breakdown structure has to reflect 100% of the work required to achieve the deliverable, but should also exclude extra or unrelated work. Subtasks on any level have to account for all work necessary to finish the main task.

Mutually exclusive

Don’t account for any amount of work done twice – be sure no subtask is included more than once. It violates the rule mentioned above and results in miscalculations as you try to decide the resources required for completing a project.

Maintain three levels

Typically a work breakdown structure should have three levels of detail. As stated, some branches of the WBS could be more subdivided than others, but if most branches have around three levels, it means the scope of your project and level of details is correct. However, the WBS should be easy to comprehend too. 

Involve team members

While creating a work breakdown structure, be sure to involve team members in brainstorming sessions. It is vital to take input from every person on the team, as to the work that has to be done for project completion.

Focus on outcomes

Remember to focus on deliverables and outcomes rather than actions. You have to deliver within the designated time frame and stick to the budget.

Decide if a work package is small enough

The 8/80 rule is most commonly used to decide if a work package is small enough without being overly small. As per the rule, a work package should take no less than 8 hours of effort, but no more than 80. Tweaking the rule a bit, it suggests the time frame shouldn’t be more than 10 days, which is the same as 80 hours for those working full time. To put it in a nutshell, if you report on your work every month, a work package should take no more than a month to complete.

Review and update

Every work package is assigned to a particular team or individual from the beginning. If you have created the WBS properly, there will be no work overlap, while the responsibilities are clear. However, it is imperative to keep the work breakdown structure current and relevant, so you have to regularly review, roll out redundancies, eliminate mistakes, and update it as needed.

3 Work Breakdown Structure Examples 

Software development

Let us consider that an ecommerce site has to be developed. The work breakdown structure focuses on the following:

  • Project management - involves defining scope, planning, scheduling, identifying bottlenecks, and working with possible plan changes.
  • Analysis – conduct interviews, develop requirements and specifications, and prepare use cases
  • Design – working on prototype design, architecture design, and site performance improvements.
  • Development – all details have to be taken care of, such as graphics, interface, content, database implementation, catalog engine, transaction processing, etc.
  • Testing and production – it includes test configuration, review, designing the site, and closeout meetings.


Consider an example of a building being constructed. The WBS would include the following:

  • Preparing the site – it begins with site cleaning, so it is ready for upcoming activities. Secure fencing is required to carry out the internal work.
  • Resources – the next stage of the work breakdown structure involves estimating expenses, buying necessary materials and equipment, and recruiting manpower.
  • Construction – building a foundation and various structures, painting works, etc. are included here.
  • Cleaning – once construction is over, you have to remove scrap and unnecessary building materials.
  • Deliverable – the project ends with the release of the building and dissolution of teams.


So you are hired to supervise the project of a hospital being renovated and repaired. Here is what the WBS looks like:

  • Acute care – find out the necessary repairs needed and provide new equipment to trauma units and specialty wards.
  • Critical care – manage the renovation of the intensive care units, newborn intensive care, and the cardiovascular ICU.
  • Surgical unit – it includes the pathology and laboratory, sterile processing, operating rooms, organ transportation center, endoscopy, and other essential gadgets, to be repaired.
  • Support – these services require new equipment, so the goal is to provide them to the respiratory services, hospice, pharmacy, and physical therapy wing.
  • Administration – lastly, to bring the project to completion, you have to take care of the executive office, finance, human resources, IT, facilities management, and food service.


Using a work breakdown structure can make even the most difficult of projects, quite simple to plan and execute. Use MioCreate to master the technique of creating a WBS and you will be able to swiftly integrate scope, cost, and deliverables into a chart that is easy to follow and understand. Not only do you have a better overview of the entire project, but it helps to plan ahead and stay on track without deviating from the designated time frame. As you work from the start and follow through all the way to the last deliverable, it becomes more convenient to communicate with your team, stay updated with their progress, assign new tasks, and so on.


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