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Creating a WBS

Creating a WBS

Author: Sophia Tutorial

This lesson demonstrates the steps in creating a Work Breakdown Structure.

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What's Covered

In this lesson, we'll discuss how to create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) by focusing on:

  1. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
  2. Sticky Note Method
    1. Deliverables
    2. Activities
    3. Tasks


As you may know, the WBS is a method that a project manager uses to organize project work and break it down into manageable chunks. It's the goal of the WBS to provide a complete picture of the work involved to create the project deliverables. 

The WBS is thus the foundation for the project schedule, resource planning, and the determination of project budget.


You are the project manager for a house construction project. The creation of a WBS must be a collaboration between you and the members of the project team, or others who have knowledge of the work.

Any individuals on the project team who have responsibility for the work toward deliverables should be involved This includes all the trades that are part of the construction, such as those who create the structure of the house, install the roof, or place the plumbing and electrics. 

Subject matter experts should also be involved. These are individuals with specialized knowledge that relates to the project goals or deliverables.

ExampleWhen building an energy efficient house, subject matter experts may not work on the project, but might just provide advice that defines the work. 

Any individuals who have experience with similar projects should be consulted, and the project manager should review the WBS or schedules for any projects that have similar deliverables.


Copy the WBS tasks from projects that have been completed successfully, and then modify the WBS for your specific project.

Once you know who will collaborate, it's time to break down the work.


A WBS is often represented as a hierarchy. One method that works well is called the sticky note method. In this method, each element of the WBS is written on a sticky note. These notes can then be easily moved around as more information comes in from collaborators.

This works better than a document or a white board because the structure is more flexible. Since the notes can be easily moved, collaborators do not feel locked into certain workflows during the brainstorming process.

Our first sticky note may have “Dream Home” written on it to represent the name of our project. See below how the WBS hierarchy is broken into separate levels.

a. Deliverables

While these should usually be defined in the project scope, occasionally new deliverables will be identified during the WBS process. If new project deliverables emerge, be sure to modify the project scope and notify the stakeholders of the change.

The scope is taken from the house plans. Perhaps you are in charge of building a single story, 1,500 square foot ranch home. 

Term to Know

  • Project Deliverables
  • Defined outcomes that are the focus of a project and are the basis for all project activities.

b. Activities

These are the major pieces of work necessary to create the deliverables, and they are generally expressed as verbs. 

For the house project, these can be listed as create the foundation, build the external structure, and install the internal systems. Each activity will then be broken down further into tasks.

Term to Know

  • Project Activities 
  • Work elements that are required to complete or manage a project.

c. Tasks

Specific work may be needed to complete an activity. Unlike activities, however, tasks will be assigned to the individuals performing the work.

Once the foundation activity is complete, there are tasks such as excavating footings, laying concrete forms, pouring concrete, and installing the water lines. This continues for each activity, breaking down the work into tasks that can be assigned.

Once all the tasks have been identified, the proper sequence of the work, the WBS must represent the correct order. The sticky note method makes it easy to move these project tasks to their proper locations.

Term to Know

  • Project Tasks
  • Discrete work that is required to complete project activities.


In this lesson, you learned how to create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) using the collaboration process.

You now know that the Work Breakdown Structure breaks down into deliverables, activities, and tasks. Additionally, you learned how to use the sticky note method during the process and how activities break down further into tasks.

Good luck!

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia Author Jeff Carroll.

Terms to Know
Project Activities

Work elements that are required to complete or manage a project.

Project Deliverables

Defined outcomes that are the focus of a project and are the basis for all project activities.

Project Tasks

Discrete work that is required to complete project activities.