Avoiding Verbs in the WBS

Posted on January 27, 2010 by

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I naturally want to use verbs in my Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), but it’s wrong! A WBS is a deliverable-oriented hierarchy of the work to be done on a project. The Project Management Institute’s Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures states that the WBS elements are to be defined using adjectives and nouns, but not verbs. So for my recent project of making a gingerbread house, I have the tendency to want to have components that state “bake gingerbread,”  “make royal frosting,” and “buy fun-looking candies” and turn my WBS into an organized to-do list. But again, this is a bad WBS form and should be avoided. The correct way would be to have “gingerbread house” at the top level and the next level be “gingerbread,” “frosting,” “candy,” “house frame,” and “recipe.” (Note that although this was an actual project, I do not actually make a WBS or any other project management documents for small, recreational activities!) It can help to remember that the WBS is a set of DELIVERABLES, not the actions or to-do list required to bring those deliverables into existence.