Making a WBS – The Top-Down Method

Posted on January 29, 2010 by

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A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which is a deliverable-oriented hierarchy of the work to be done on a project, can be created through several methods. According to the Project Management Institute’s Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures, common methods include: Top-Down, Bottom-Up, WBS Standards, and WBS Templates.

The Top-Down method begins with the final product and its major deliverables. These major deliverables are then decomposed into more detail. So if a Kentucky Derby party is the final product, and the major deliverables are a television, snacks, and invitations, one starts with them and then breaks down these deliverables further. Stakeholders should agree that the level of detail is sufficient before finalizing the document.

Since this method is so conducive to progressive elaboration, it is well-suited for projects with many as of yet unknown details and for project managers with less experience. If there are no suitable WBS templates available, this method works well also. It is easy to miss work packages that should be included and not go into enough detail with this approach, so the project manager should be aware of that.