How a Work Breakdown Structure Improves Productivity and Alleviates Bottlenecks

Business.com / Work Life / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The work breakdown structure breaks down a project into achievable sections to reduce bottlenecks and increase productivity.

“Who has the document for review?”

“Are we still on time and on budget with our project?”

“Are you taking the first stab at that task, or am I?”

“Should we wait to do the drafting until the meeting, or after?”

“Who is the lead on this part of our annual objective?”

If you or members of your team are repeating these or similar procedural questions, then you’re in need of a project manager. And if you don’t consider it, you may get left behind. That’s because the project management field is slated to grow to $6.61 trillion internationally between 2010 and 2020.

Particular industries, like information services, manufacturing, business services, and finance are fields that are particularly well-suited to project management. But any field, even non-profits, and government, would be good candidates for project management. Every supervisor should move their team away from a jumbled conversation about various to-dos to a visual map or flow chart of defined responsibilities.

Related Article:Which Team Member Are You? Identifying Your Project Management Style

One tool used by project managers and successful businesses is the work breakdown structure. The work breakdown structure is a deliverable that breaks down a project into digestible, achievable sections. It can turn a project from a tangled headache that sucks time and money out of your limited resources into a manageable, orderly series of deliverables.

Here’s a look at how work breakdown structures improve productivity and alleviate bottlenecks.

Providing a Framework and Mission

Ever been a part of a project during which you’ve totally lost sight of the vision and purpose? Of course you have. Enlisting a work breakdown structure will ensure that a clear and concise statement of work remains top-of-mind for employees and supervisors alike. This can make the difference between success and failure.

Assignments of Sections and Budget Figures

A work breakdown structure allows individual deliverables to be assigned to an individual or group of individuals. It also provides a budget for each section, which can be extrapolated out to determine the total project budget and time needed.

Breaking down the project into these small portions helps your employees feel accomplished and proficient, as well. Instead of finishing one large job, they’ve actually completed ten small steps towards one large job. This sense of achievement enhances their attitude and productivity.

Related Article:Superstar Status: How to Become Better at Project Management in 30 Days

Determining Bottlenecks and Setbacks

As the project works its way through the timeline, project leads and managers will be able to easily determine any points of conflict or setback. If the team is falling behind, a supervisor need only refer to the well-defined work breakdown structure to identify the project’s bottleneck. If a person is responsible for the setback, evaluate responsibilities, determine if more training is necessary or invest in updated hardware or additional personnel.

And if an employee misses a deadline once, don’t assume you must lessen their load. In fact, research shows that busy employees who miss a deadline are likely to get de-motivated by having their workload reduced after their mistake. Instead, set a new deadline for the task, as the employee is less likely to procrastinate because they know they missed it because of their busy-ness and not a lack of skill or competency.

Establishing Phases and Deliverables

In a large organization, sometimes departments are segmented and operate almost independently of each other. Work breakdown structures allow for individual components to be assigned to departments or units. These assignments are often called work packages. Further, a work breakdown structure will ensure that no work is being duplicated, which is an avoidable waste of time and money.

For example, if you’re moving your headquarters, you may have contiguous packages dealing with the physical building updates that need to be made at your new location, the accounting procedures for the sale of the current building and the communications responsibilities for notifying both the public and your employees.

Related Article:The Best Project Management Tools to Boost Employee Performance

Maintaining Flexibility and Creativity 

Creativity can be encouraged from the start of a project to ensure that a collaborative and original culture exists. For employees who are very task-oriented, they may appreciate seeing time built into your project for collaboration and brainstorming. Following the 100 percent Rule in project management, include everything, even the creative processes that happen “offline” in your timeline and responsibilities.

The idea of work breakdown structure was first introduced by the Navy in 1957 to assist in the development of a missile program. Whether you’re building missiles or building a home, work breakdown structures now can take the form of online project management systems with a user-friendly graphic output.

All of project management is geared towards the goal of accomplishing goals on time, on budget and with the best result possible. Implementing a world breakdown structure can help improve productivity, alleviate bottlenecks and establish clear deliverables all while maintaining flexibility and creativity.

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