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3 Ways to Chart Your Work Breakdown Structure

Presenting a work breakdown structure (WBS) as a chart helps project managers and their teams to visualize the hierarchy of a project. WBS charts come in several formats; three of the most common are organization chart, indented outline, and bubble chart.

1

The organization-chart format

The organization-chart format is also referred to as a hierarchy diagram or graphical view or the WBS. This format effectively portrays an overview of your project and the hierarchical relationships of different WBS components at the highest levels. However, because this format generally requires a lot of space, it’s less effective for displaying large WBSs.

2

The indented-outline format

The indented-outline format is another way to display your WBS. This format allows you to read and understand a complex WBS with many components. However, you can easily get lost in the details of a large project with this format and forget how the pieces all fit together.

Both the organization-chart format and the indented-outline format can be helpful for displaying the WBS for a small project. For a large project, however, consider using a combination of the organization-chart and the indented-outline formats to explain your WBS. You can display the Level 1 and Level 2 components in the organization-chart format and portray the detailed breakout for each Level 2 component in the indented-outline format.

3

The bubble-chart format

The bubble-chart format is particularly effective for displaying the results of the brainstorming approach to develop your WBS for both small and large projects. You interpret the bubble-chart format as follows:

The bubble in the center represents your entire project (in this case, Report).

Lines from the center bubble lead to Level 2 breakouts (in this case, Draft report, Reviews of draft, and Final report).

Lines from each Level 2 component lead to Level 3 components related to the Level 2 component. (In this case, the Level 2 component Final report consists of the two Level 3 components Typed final report and Printed final report.)

The freeform nature of the bubble-chart format allows you to easily record thoughts generated during a brainstorming session. You can also easily rearrange components as you proceed with your analysis.

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