Work Breakdown Structure Template [Free Download]

Editorial Team

Download this free Work Breakdown Structure template and use it for your new project. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the download link.

1          Introduction

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a view into the project which shows what work the project encompasses.  It is a tool which helps to easily communicate the work and processes involved to execute the project.  The Project Manager and project team use the WBS to develop the project schedule, resource requirements and costs.  The objective should be to capture 100% of the work for the project. 

There are many ways to present the WBS for a project and this template provides many of the most popular layouts from which to choose.  Depending on where the WBS is placed in the project plan, a different layout may be more suitable. For instance, many Project Managers include a high level WBS within the project plan, and a more detailed version as an appendix to the plan. 

To save space in this template, WBS examples are developed to the third level only. In most projects, the approach to the WBS use the 8 to 80 rule, which states that the WBS should be decomposed down to a work package containing between 8 and 80 hours of work to complete.

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) presented in this document represents the work required to complete [PROJECT NAME].

2          Outline View

The outline view presents an easy to view and understand layout for the WBS.  It is also a good layout to use when developing the WBS because changes can easily be made, especially since the Microsoft Word auto numbering feature updates the WBS Code automatically.

  1. Widget Management System
    1. Initiation
      1. Evaluation & Recommendations
      1. Develop Project Charter
      1. Deliverable: Submit Project Charter
      1. Project Sponsor Reviews Project Charter
      1. Project Charter Signed/Approved
    1. Planning
      1. Create Preliminary Scope Statement
      1. Determine Project Team
      1. Project Team Kickoff Meeting
      1. Develop Project Plan
      1. Submit Project Plan
      1. Milestone: Project Plan Approval
    1. Execution
      1. Project Kickoff Meeting
      1. Verify & Validate User Requirements
      1. Design System
      1. Procure Hardware/Software
      1. Install Development System
      1. Testing Phase
      1. Install Live System
      1. User Training
      1. Go Live
    1. Control
      1. Project Management
      1. Project Status Meetings
      1. Risk Management
      1. Update Project Management Plan
    1. Closeout
      1. Audit Procurement
      1. Document Lessons Learned
      1. Update Files/Records
      1. Gain Formal Acceptance
      1. Archive Files/Documents

3          Hierarchical Structure

The hierarchal structure is similar to the outline view but without indentation.  Although this format is more difficult to read, it may be useful where there are many levels. Indenting each level may potentially cause the table to be too sizable to fit into a document.

LevelWBS CodeElement Name
11Widget Management System
31.1.1Evaluation & Recommendations
31.1.2Develop Project Charter
31.1.3Deliverable: Submit Project Charter
31.1.4Project Sponsor Reviews Project Charter
31.1.5Project Charter Signed/Approved
31.2.1Create Preliminary Scope Statement
31.2.2Determine Project Team
31.2.3Project Team Kickoff Meeting
31.2.4Develop Project Plan
31.2.5Submit Project Plan
31.2.6Milestone: Project Plan Approval
31.3.1Project Kickoff Meeting
31.3.2Verify & Validate User Requirements
31.3.3Design System
31.3.4Procure Hardware/Software
31.3.5Install Development System
31.3.6Testing Phase
31.3.7Install Live System
31.3.8User Training
31.3.9Go Live
31.4.1Project Management
31.4.2Project Status Meetings
31.4.3Risk Management
31.4.4Update Project Management Plan
31.5.1Audit Procurement
31.5.2Document Lessons Learned
31.5.3Update Files/Records
31.5.4Gain Formal Acceptance
31.5.5Archive Files/Documents

Table 1: Hierarchical structure

4          Tabular View

The Tabular View is a nicely organized table view of the WBS.  It is a good option for organizations that prefer table formats.

Table 2: Tabular view

5          Tree Structure View

The Tree Structure View is the most popular format for the WBS.  It presents an easy to understand view into the WBS; however, it is problematic to create without access to an application specifically designed for creating this organizational chart structure.  The Tree Structure below was created using only Microsoft Word and the SmartArt graphics option under the insert menu.

Figure 1: Tree structure

6          WBS Dictionary

The WBS Dictionary contains all the details of the WBS which are necessary to successfully complete the project.  Most importantly it contains a definition of each Work Package, which can be thought of as a mini scope statement.  Resources on the project will review the WBS dictionary to determine the scope of the Work Package they’ve been assigned, so it is important to be clear when writing the definition.  Most WBS dictionaries contain more information than is shown in this sample, such as level of effort, cost control numbers, resource assignments, responsibility assignments, etc.

WBS Dictionary
LevelWBS CodeElement NameDefinition
11Widget Management SystemAll work to implement a new widget management system.
21.1InitiationThe work to initiate the project.
31.1.1Evaluation & RecommendationsWorking group to evaluate solution sets and make recommendations.
31.1.2Develop Project CharterProject Manager to develop the Project Charter.
31.1.3Deliverable: Submit Project CharterProject Charter is delivered to the Project Sponsor.
31.1.4Project Sponsor Reviews Project CharterProject sponsor reviews the Project Charter.
31.1.5Project Charter Signed/ApprovedThe Project Sponsor signs the Project Charter which authorizes the Project Manager to move to the Planning Process.
21.2PlanningThe work for the planning process for the project.
31.2.1Create Preliminary Scope StatementProject Manager creates a Preliminary Scope Statement.
31.2.2Determine Project TeamThe Project Manager determines the project team and requests the resources.
31.2.3Project Team Kickoff MeetingThe planning process is officially started with a project kickoff meeting which includes the Project Manager, Project Team and Project Sponsor (optional).
31.2.4Develop Project PlanUnder the direction of the Project Manager the team develops the project plan.
31.2.5Submit Project PlanProject Manager submits the project plan for approval.
31.2.6Milestone: Project Plan ApprovalThe project plan is approved and the Project Manager has permission to proceed to execute the project according to the project plan.
21.3ExecutionWork involved to execute the project.
31.3.1Project Kickoff MeetingProject Manager conducts a formal kick off meeting with the project team, project stakeholders and project sponsor.
31.3.2Verify & Validate User RequirementsThe original user requirements is reviewed by the project manager and team, and then validated with the users/stakeholders. This is where additional clarification may be needed.
31.3.3Design SystemThe technical resources design the new widget management system.
31.3.4Procure Hardware/SoftwareThe procurement of all hardware, software and facility needs for the project.
31.3.5Install Development SystemTeam installs a development system for testing and customizations of user interfaces.
31.3.6Testing PhaseThe system is tested with a select set of users.
31.3.7Install Live SystemThe actual system is installed and configured.
31.3.8User TrainingAll users are provided with a four hours training class.  Additionally, managers are provided with an additional two hours class to cover advanced reporting.
31.3.9Go LiveSystem goes live with all users.
21.4ControlThe work involved for the control process of the project.
31.4.1Project ManagementOverall project management for the project.
31.4.2Project Status MeetingsWeekly team status meetings.
31.4.3Risk ManagementRisk management efforts as defined in the Risk Management Plan.
31.4.4Update Project Management PlanProject Manager updates the Project Management Plan as the project progresses.
21.5CloseoutThe work to close-out the project.
31.5.1Audit ProcurementAn audit of all hardware and software procured for the project. .
31.5.2Document Lessons LearnedProject Manager along with the project team performs a lessons learned meeting and documents the lessons learned for the project.
31.5.3Update Files/RecordsAll files and records are updated to reflect the widget management system.
31.5.4Gain Formal AcceptanceThe Project Sponsor formally accepts the project by signing the acceptance document included in the project plan.
31.5.5Archive Files/DocumentsAll project related files and documents are formally archived.

Table 3: WBS dictionary

7          Glossary of Terms

It is important to provide a glossary of terms as some of the terms are not well understood by persons without a project management background.  For instance the PMI Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures reference to the ‘WBS Code’ is commonly referred to as the ‘WBS number’.

Level of EffortLevel of Effort (LOE) is how much work is required to complete a task.
WBS CodeA unique identifier assigned to each element in a Work Breakdown Structure for the purpose of designating the elements hierarchical location within the WBS.
Work PackageA Work Package is a deliverable or work component at the lowest level of its WBS branch.
WBS ComponentA component of a WBS which is located at any level.  It can be a Work Package or a WBS Element as there’s no restriction on what a WBS Component is.
WBS ElementA WBS Element is a single WBS component and its associated attributes located anywhere within a WBS.  A WBS Element can contain work, or it can contain other WBS Elements or Work Packages.

Table 4: Glossary of terms

Click here to download Work Breakdown Structure template.