What Goes into the WBS – Part II


There are two schools of thought on what should go into the WBS. One school, possibly the majority, holds that the WBS can contain activities as well as deliverables. Googling for the definition of “WBS” turns up definitions that use words like processes, activities, tasks, subtasks, etc.

The other school holds that the WBS should describe deliverables, not activities. I am firmly in this camp. At the work package level I’m looking for nouns, not verbs. The WBS defines the deliverables (nouns). Activities (the verbs) are defined in the project schedule (or a task list that is used to build the schedule).

Work packages must be nouns in order to manage scope.

Otherwise, scope management becomes about activities, not deliverables. As a PM, I want to know whether a deliverable in or out of scope, not whether an activity is in or out of scope. Activities will automatically be in or out of scope depending on whether the deliverable is in or out of scope. But identifying an activity as in or out of scope tells me nothing about the deliverable. Or, if you have activities that are not associated with a specific deliverable, they represent waste and should be removed.

To summarize: Verbs in the schedule are the activities needed to produce nouns in the WBS. Otherwise the WBS is just a lightweight task list that does not add significant value over the project schedule.