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What you can do with Work Breakdow Structure (WBS)?
Hi, this is Mike Negami, Lean Sigma Black Belt.
In this episode, I’ll continue explaining about the Define Phase, the first phase of a Lean Sigma project.
It’s there to define and clarify the contents of the project. A project charter clarifies why do you do it, what you will do, when you will do it and who will do it. Now, we want to know “how you will do it”. A project plan form would display this.
PMP has a template for that, but it’s very complicated. So, I use Work Breakdown Structure instead. People call it WBS for short.
You have a purpose and goal for the project for now, but it’s still not clear enough so that team members know what they’ll have to actually do in the project. To break down the purpose and goal to team members’ reasonable work units, the method we use is the Work Breakdown Structure.
Please take a look at this diagram below. WBS is formed in a hierarchy like an up side-down tree. This WBS concept can be used in many areas, but today I would like to focus on making a project schedule.
Two point you need to check before starting making a WBS
There are two things we need to check before starting our WBS. The first thing is that the Project Charter should already have been completed and approved. Even if you completed a WBS, if your stakeholders say that the purpose and goal is not right, you have to do it all over again.
The second is to clarify project requirements. With a certain scale project, you would have talked to, and made a Statement of Work with your customers. If that’s not the case, you should find out and know any customer’s requirements toward your project, even small things.
Basic Instructions of making a WBS
1. List your project’s milestones.
Let’s conduct a WBS. First write the milestone points from the beginning to the end of the project, considering the project’s objectives and requirements.
This is a guideline, you should have around 5 milestones with a couple-of-month’s-long project. Even with a long term project, you should have less than 10 milestones. You’ll manage your project by the milestones.
2. List deliverables by each milestone
Then, write down what you have to produce, which PMP calls a ‘deliverable’, in each milestone. You may have multiple deliverables. Let’s say one of your milestones is “Analyze current situations,” then its deliverable may be “The current process map,” “Product sales ranking” and “Customer sales ranking,” for example.
3. List tasks by each deliverable
Lastly, write down necessary tasks needed to complete each deliverable in the timeline. Here is a thing that always comes up to be discussed: to what degree of detail should we break down our tasks? In conclusion, its guideline is “write tasks that you will surely do.”
If it’s too detailed, it’s too cumbersome to write and manage them. Also, considering further milestones, you may not be able to come up with tasks or even deliverables at this point.
Since you’ll use this WBS in progress management and update it from time to time. If there are some parts you are not sure about, simply leave it blank at this moment and go to the next, but as you rotate your PDCA in the project, make sure to fill it out in the future.
In summary, the WBS looks like this below: a hierarchical diagram consisting of milestones, deliverables and tasks. Add the responsible person’s name and completion date to each task, then it can also be used for progress management.
I’ve completed this episode. I’ll show you WBS practical training on an Excel template in the next episode, which you’ll be able to download.
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