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Work Breakdown Structures and Network Diagrams

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Work Breakdown Structures and Network Diagrams
Work Breakdown Structures and Network Diagrams
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Work Breakdown Structures and Network Diagrams
In this age of globalization, when the business environment is constantly changing, many
businesses rely upon project management tools and practices in order to start, design, control,
and complete various important projects. Although there are various tools in project
management, two important initial tools that help a business’s project management team to
manage a project include the work breakdown structure (WBS) and the network diagram. These
two tools help to determine the timeline, the allocation of tasks and resources, and the budgeting
and costs pertaining to the overall success and completion of a project (Lessard & Lessard,
2007).
The work breakdown structure (WBS) provides a project management team with a
guideline for categorizing the project’s essential activities into related components in a
hierarchical list. According to Lessard & Lessard 2007, the WBS is fundamental in project
management and “provides the basis for planning and managing project schedules, costs, and
changes” (pg. 28). In order to create a WBS, a project management team can either use a top-
down approach or bottoms-up approach (Lessard & Lessard, 2007). For the top-down approach,
the team starts with the total work content of the project and breaks those large items down into
the least level work components or work packages (Golany & Shtub, 2007). In the bottoms-up
approach, the team starts with the lowest level work components and builds them up (Lessard &
Lessard, 2007).
Using these approaches, most likely the top-down approach, the project management
team can allocate the lowest level work components to various individuals and thus the WBS
helps to divide labor across the project (Golany & Shtub, 2007). Overall, the hierarchies in the
WBS help the project management team to regulate work at every level. The completed WBS
helps the project manager and team to create a schedule, list resources needed to finish each task,
2Work Breakdown Structures and Network Diagrams 32

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Work Breakdown Structures and Network Diagrams
and analyze budgets and costs (Lessard & Lessard, 2007). Once the subprojects and tasks in the
WBS have been listed into a hierarchy, the next step is to translate them into a network diagram.
The network diagram shows the trajectory of the project, records starting and end dates,
and designates the party accountable for each work component (Lessard & Lessard, 2007). As a
result, the network diagram uses a graphic display to show the different activities of the project
and “the logical relationships among project activities and/or sequencing of project
activities”(Lessard & Lessard, 2007, pg.33-37). If correctly structured, with the graphic depiction
displayed from left to right and the tasks placed in sequential order, project managers and teams
can easily determine the sequences and relationships between various subprojects and tasks from
the WBS hierarchy. As a result, the network diagram helps a project management team to
minimize the uncertainty associated with a project, by helping them to break down the project
into smaller, understandable segments.
The WBS and network diagram, go hand-in-hand for helping a project management team
to analyze and understand the various components and workers needed for a particular project.
The WBS just shows the tiered relationships between different work components and subprojects
in a project. As a result, it would be difficult to create a timetable and sequence the various tasks
to be completed by different people for a project. That is where the network diagram plays an
important role. As stated above, once the project management team has completed the first step
of listing the WBS hierarchies then they can proceed to representing those hierarchies in the
network diagram. The network diagram would help the project management team to graphically
represent the sequencing relationships between the many important parts of a project. Once the
network diagram has been completed, the team can now create a schedule to catalog the time
requirements for different tasks and can now also allocate resources and work to be done by
3Work Breakdown Structures and Network Diagrams 33

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