How to Develop a Work Breakdown Structure by Brainstorming

How you develop you’re work breakdown schedule (WBS) for a project you're managing depends on how familiar you and your team are with your project, whether similar projects have been successfully performed in the past, and how many new methods and approaches you’ll use. Brainstorming lets you generate all possible work and deliverables for this project and then group them into categories.

Brainstorming is helpful when you don’t have a clear sense of a project’s required work at the outset. This approach encourages you to generate any and all possible pieces of work that may have to be done, without worrying about how to organize them in the final WBS. After you decide that a proposed piece of work is a necessary part of the project, you can identify any related work that's also required.

Consider using stick-on notes to support your WBS development. As you identify pieces of work, write them on the notes and put them on the wall. Add, remove, and regroup the notes as you continue to think through your work. This approach encourages open sharing of ideas and helps all people appreciate — in detail — the nature of the work that needs to be done.

Use the following brainstorming approach for projects involving untested methods or for projects you and your team members aren’t familiar with:

  1. Write down all deliverables and components of work that you think your project entails.

    Don’t worry about overlap or level of detail.

    Don’t discuss wording or other details of the work items.

    Don’t make any judgments about the appropriateness of the work.

  2. Group these items into a few major categories with common characteristics and eliminate any deliverables or work components that aren’t required.

    These groups are your Level 2 categories.

  3. Divide the deliverables and work components under each Level 2 category into groups with common characteristics.

    These groups are your Level 3 categories.

  4. Now use the top-down method to identify any additional deliverables or work components that you overlooked in the categories you created.

  5. Continue in this manner until you’ve described all project deliverables and work components completely.

    The lowest-level components in each WBS chain are your project’s work packages.

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