How 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.
The organization-chart format
A WBS in the organization-chart format (also referred to as a hierarchy diagram or graphical view). This format effectively portrays an overview of your project and the hierarchical relationships of different categories at the highest levels. However, because this format generally requires a lot of space, it’s less effective for displaying large WBSs.
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 different 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.
The bubble-chart format
The bubble-chart format is particularly effective for supporting brainstorming 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 element Final report consists of the two Level 3 elements Handwritten final report and Printed final report.)Use the bubble-chart format as you develop the WBS with your team.
The freeform nature of the bubble-chart format makes it effective for easily recording thoughts generated during a brainstorming session. You can also easily rearrange components as you proceed with your analysis.
The bubble-chart format isn’t effective for displaying your WBS to audiences who aren’t familiar with your project. Use this format to develop your WBS with your team, but transpose it into an organization-chart or indented-outline format when you present it to people outside your team.