Building a Project Work Breakdown Structure : Visualizing Objectives, Deliverables, Activities, and Schedules book cover
1st Edition

Building a Project Work Breakdown Structure
Visualizing Objectives, Deliverables, Activities, and Schedules

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ISBN 9781420069693
Published August 1, 2008 by Auerbach Publications
262 Pages 246 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Most people do not truly understand a concept until they can visualize it. This applies to all fields, including Project Management. The best way to effectively manage projects is to help your team visualize the end result as well as the steps needed to achieve that result.

Help Your Team Visualize the Right Path to Success

Building a Project Work Breakdown Structure: Visualizing Objectives, Deliverables, Activities, and Schedules employs a diagram approach to project planning and scheduling. This useful tool empowers business professionals to take control of and successfully communicate their projects, ensuring they are completed on time with their targeted impact.

Industry professional Dennis P. Miller, a consultant to leading Fortune 500 companies, thoroughly explains the keys to an effective Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) through an Eight Step Process. He has refined this process over a period of twenty years, applying it to over 100 projects ranging from software development to social events. The Eight Step Process starts with a concentrated effort to define the project through its deliverables. The middle steps walk the project team through a process of activity definition and sequencing and resource assignment. Finally, the last steps involve estimating the duration and verifying the project timeline.

Not Just What to Do, But How to Do It!

This is a hands-on volume that includes a practice section for each of the eight steps, providing readers with real examples of how the author has successfully applied this process. The result of its application is a visualization of the project’s objectives, deliverables, activities, and schedules. Over 130 illustrations enrich the instructions. Project managers are assured of success by following the simple tools in this unique and comprehensive volume.



Table of Contents

II. Preplanning Activities and Issues

Preplanning Issues

Opening Issues

Issue: Do Not Ask if You Do Not Plan to Use!

Issue: Your Personal Management Style

Issue: How Important Is the Project to Your Organization?

Issue: Write Your Management Style into Your

Project Charter

Issue: Will Your Organization Accept Results?

Issue: Can You Pull This Off?

Sources of Deliverables

Project Deliverables

Requirements Document

Client’s Own Words

Objective Statement Only

Your Planning Team

No Definition at All

Timing of Planning Session

A Question of Timing

How Many Days?

How Many Hours per Day?

Specific Preparations


Personal Calendars

Planning Session Site



Break Materials

II. Executing The Eight Step Process

Step 1: Find the Project’s Deliverables


Deliverable versus Activity Orientation

All Projects Have Physical Deliverables

The Best Source of Deliverables


Just-In-Time (JIT) Training

Do Not Add Any Deliverables, Even If You Know They

Are Missing

Find the Deliverables — Nouns Only

Write Out the Post-Its®

Let’s Practice: Step 1


Different Types (Colors) of Post-Its®

Do Not Be Concerned with Duplicates

A Good Method for Analyzing

Be as Neat as Possible

Step 2: Build and Review the Initial Product Breakdown Structure (PBS)

Background (Build)

The Top Component of the WBS

JIT Training (Build)

The Initial Build of the PBS

A PBS Can Have Different Depths (Level of Detail)

Let’s Practice: Part One

Build Your Working Surface

Assemble the PBS

Hints (Build)

PC Software or Not?

Background (Review)

JIT Training (Review)

Let’s Practice: Part Two

Hints (Review)

Objectives of the Presentation

Play a Little Trick

Progress Reporting Style

Other Display Techniques

Step 3: Building Down the PBS


JIT Training

Successive Decomposition

A Question of Granularity

Approaches for the Build-Down

Client’s Deliverables

Process Deliverables

Project Deliverables to the Fourth Level

Sources for More Detailed Deliverables



The PBS Is a Work in Progress

Show Your Work: Leave It on Post-Its®

The Project Management Leg®


The Parking Lot

An Assumption

Step 4: Establishing the Activities


Most Project Managers Start Here

Their Time Is Yours

Time Boxed

Are You Ready?

JIT Training

Restate the Project’s Purpose

How Much to Plan

Assembly Points

Gaining Team Buy-In

Let’s Practice


Step 5: Building the Physical Logical Diagram (The Network)


The Network Is a Time-Oriented Diagram

The Most Common Network Flaw

JIT Training

Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT)

Critical Path Method (CPM)

Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM)


How the Network Goes Together

Where to Build the Network

Organized Sub-teams if Necessary

How to Get Started

Ask the Right Question

Parallel Paths

Interconnect the Sub-team Networks

Now Combine It All

How to Draw Arrows

Keep the PBS Current

Let’s Practice


The Quality Step

Do Not Let It Drag Out

Another Value

Your Facilitation

Do Not Get into Details

Not Needed

Step 6: Assigning the Resources


JIT Training

Who Defines the Resources?

Where Do the Resources Go?

Keep Track of Any Codes

Let’s Practice


Later, Combine Steps

Step 7: Estimate the Durations


Questions and Doubts

JIT Training

Handling a "Stiff Arm"

The Critical Path

No Estimate? There Can Be Reasons

A PERT Estimate

Handling Multiple Resources

Best Estimates but Not Their Tightest

Estimates in Days

Where to Place the Duration

Duration versus Workload

Let’s Practice


Step 8: Verify the Project Timeline


JIT Training

Three CPA Methods

Dates versus Absolute Days

All Paths Method

The Zero Method

The One Method

Critical Path Analysis (CPA)

Early Dates

Late Dates

Forward Pass

Backward Pass


Different Floats

Resource Allocation

Different Critical Paths

Show Your Work

Let’s Practice


Tendency to Make Changes

The Second Pass

First Pass and Backward CPA

CPA and the Project’s Target Date

Big Problem or Error?

When to Use PC Software

When Not to Use PC Software

Keep Their Attention

What Are You Changing Now?

Do Not Schedule Yet

III. Post -Planning Activities

Second Pass

Why a Second Pass?

Adjust the Timings

New Rules

New Rule Applied and Added Value

Another Timing Parameter


Manual Scheduling

Shop Calendar

Early Start

Early Finishes



Scheduled Network


PC Software versus Manual

Clean It Up

Lay Out the Gantt Chart

Other Orders

Where to Put the Scheduled Network

Tracking and Reporting

Keeping Track of Progress

Who Reports Actual Performance?

An Additional Value of Progress Reporting


Other Uses


Resource Allocation

Rough Cut

Review the Situation

IV. Some Basic Project Management Issues

Let’s Practice: Case Study Summary

Step 1

Step 2: Part One (Build)

Step 2: Part Two (Client Presentation)

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Step 7

Step 8

History and Lessons Learned


Lessons Learned


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQs Related to the Session

FAQs Regarding Post Session

FAQs Regarding Project Management in General

Essay: The WBS — Worth a Second Look

The WBS and Its Origin

Our Understanding of How the WBS Has Evolved

The Search

Sources of Our Understanding

How to Best Build and Use the WBS


View More


"Step-by-step advancement industry professional Miller, a consultant to leading Fortune 500 companies, explains the keys to an effective WBS through an Eight Step Process. … hands-on volume that includes a practice section for each of the eight steps, providing readers with real examples of how Miller has successfully applied the process. Unlike other books in project management, Building a Project Work Breakdown Structure not only thoroughly shows readers what they can do, but shows them how to do it. … unique and comprehensive volume."

Business Economics 9.1.08