What is a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and how do I create one?

Navigate the creation of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) with this comprehensive guide. Understand its significance, how it contributes to project management success, and the steps to build one effectively.



Craft Author: Tom Norman
Tom Norman

What is a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)?

A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a fundamental tool in project management. It essentially requires breaking the project down into manageable chunks or work packages, organized in a hierarchical way. These packages represent key deliverables or outputs, and help provide a clear picture of the scope of work required to complete the project. The WBS serves as a roadmap, directing teams towards the project's end goals and ensuring every necessary task is accounted for.

Types of Work Breakdown Structure

There are generally two types of Work Breakdown Structures: Deliverable-based and Phase-based.

1. Deliverable-based WBS

This type focuses on the final products or outcomes of the project. It breaks down the project according to what needs to be delivered, from the most significant deliverable down to the smallest component. This type of WBS is highly effective for projects where the deliverables are clear and well-defined. It ensures the team stays focused on the end goals and aids in clearly defining the project scope.

2. Phase-based WBS

In this type, the project is divided based on its lifecycle phases such as initiation, planning, execution, and closure. Each phase is then further broken down into the tasks required to complete that phase. This approach is suitable for complex projects with unclear deliverables, where the focus is more on the process rather than the end product.

Choosing between a Deliverable-Based and Phase-Based WBS will largely depend on the nature of your project and the clarity of your end goals. Whichever type you choose, the main aim is to ensure a comprehensive representation of the project structure, with the ultimate goal of promoting understanding, accountability, and efficiency among your team.

Benefits of a Work Breakdown Structure

Using a WBS offers numerous benefits to both the project manager and the team. It provides a clear and detailed overview of the project, making it easier to understand the scope of work and the responsibilities of each team member. A well-crafted WBS can:

1. Improve understanding of the project

By breaking the project down into smaller, more manageable parts, everyone involved can easily comprehend the project's overall structure and their specific roles.

2. Enhance scheduling and budgeting

By identifying all tasks and deliverables, project managers can better estimate time, resources, and costs associated with each task.

3. Reduce project risks

With a clear view of the project's structure, potential risks and issues can be identified and mitigated early.

4. Promote team alignment

A WBS serves as a shared reference point for all team members, fostering better coordination and communication.

How to create a Work Breakdown Structure in Craft

You can easily use Craft to create your own Work Breakdown Structure document. Cards and pages make it easy to add hierarchy within a Craft document while looking visually impactful too.

1. Identify your main deliverables

Start by identifying the most significant outputs or phases of your project. List these at the highest level of your WBS.

In Craft, you can create a document and list the phases as Cards.

Work Breakdown Structure template
Work Breakdown Structure Template in Craft

2. Break these down into smaller parts

Break down each high-level item into its smaller, constituent parts. Continue this process until you reach the smallest work package that can be assigned to a team member.

In each section, you can create additional cards representing each part of the project.

Breakdown of the project displayed in Craft
Break down your project into smaller parts using Cards

3. Assign responsibility

Once all tasks are outlined, assign each one to a team member or team by mentioning whoever is responsible - you can do this by typing @ and searching for a team member's name. This creates accountability and clarity in roles.

4. Validate your WBS

Check the completeness and accuracy of your WBS with your team and other stakeholders. You can refine it as necessary using comments until you're happy with it. Make sure all tasks necessary for the project completion are included and correctly sequenced.

As the project progresses, you can easily update the WBS and ensure everyone on the team stays aligned with the project goals.


The benefits of a WBS are multi-fold, not only improving the overall understanding of the project but also facilitating better scheduling, budgeting, and risk management. In fostering an environment of clear communication, it ensures teams remain aligned with their goals. By prioritizing and understanding its role, project managers can confidently navigate their teams through even the most challenging projects, ensuring their successful and timely completion. 

Work Breakdown Structure template

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