How is Your Schedule Structured? (Part 1)

I became very interested in this topic several years ago when I realized there was a wealth of information on scheduling, but not as much information on building a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), and even less information on how to make the transition from WBS to schedule.

This situation is complicated by the fact that we can jump right into scheduling applications such as Microsoft Project 2010 and start adding activities without first clearly defining the scope of the project or the structure of the schedule.

My experience is that it’s far better for the project team to work together to first develop a deliverable-oriented WBS to document the scope of the project and to provide a solid foundation for scheduling.  Once the deliverable-oriented WBS is built and approved, and there is a clear definition of exactly what will be produced, the schedule will be much easier to prepare.

Of course this approach does not limit the flexibility of using rolling wave planning and successively decomposing your WBS and schedule to the appropriate levels as the project progresses.

Over the next several blog posts, we’ll take a look at two different possible ways to structure your schedule given the same WBS:

  1. WBS-Based Schedule Structure
  2. Event-Based Schedule Structure

The key point here is that the work defined in the WBS is the same in both cases.  These two approaches will differ in their high-level structures, but will contain the exact same WBS work packages.  The scope of the project, and the WBS, is the same regardless of which schedule structure you choose.

Our first example will use the WBS as the outline structure for our schedule.  We’ll look at an event-based schedule structure next time.

The approach we’ll take for our WBS-structured schedule is similar to some of the examples in one of my favorite WBS books, Effective Work Breakdown Structures, by Gregory T. Haugan.  Mr. Haugan’s book is clear and concise and describes how to transition from WBS to schedule.  I highly recommend adding this one to your library.

Let’s get started:

The deliverable-oriented WBS can be created in many different formats and software applications.  I like to use WBS Chart Pro by Critical Tools.  We won’t go into a detailed discussion on WBS development right now, but maybe we’ll cover the topic in future posts.

The most important point is that all of the work in the WBS is contained at the lowest level, in the work packages.  There is no work contained in the summary elements.  The summary elements are 100% complete when the elements beneath them are 100% complete.

The graphic below is a screenshot from WBS Chart Pro.  It shows the WBS we’ll use for our examples: (Note: Click on graphics for larger view)

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Once the WBS is developed in WBS Chart Pro, MS Project 2010 can be opened directly from within WBS Chart Pro:

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The result looks like this:

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The WBS Dictionary column is a renamed Text field.  Now we’re ready to add our activities, sequence activities, and estimate resources and durations.  We’ll start on that next time before we take a look at the Event-Based Schedule Structure.

4 thoughts on “How is Your Schedule Structured? (Part 1)

  1. Excellent article regarding using the WBS to structure your schedule… I always begin with a WBS to get things started. It’s just the way I think about the work in the project.

  2. Excellent article regarding using the WBS to structure your schedule… I always begin with a WBS to get things started. It’s just the way I think about the work in the project.