How many times have you seen a project fall off the rails because there wasn’t a real documented plan? Everyone on the team knew what they had to do, the assignment was clear, but the PM hadn’t put together a good project plan. No milestones were documented, due dates were not firm (except the final due date at the end), and time wasn’t allowed for internal review. How often is QA skipped because there isn’t enough time? It’s the ready…, Go!, ok change, ok change, ok change mentality…
I know some people look at Work Breakout Structures (WBS) with disdain, but to me you have to be able to see the whole task, with all the intermediate due dates and milestones to know how long you really have to get the work done. Without a WBS how do you know if you are on track? With a WBS you can just look at the date and the tasks being worked at that time and it is pretty easy to see if you are on time or not. Without a WBS how do you know if something slips early in the project how that effects other later tasks? What is dependent on that task?
The other benefit of a WBS is if you have resources and days assigned you can easily see who is over booked, who is not fully booked, and maybe balance out the work load a little. Before you kill someone with too much work! 🙂
Finally, the biggie to me is, with a WBS it is real easy to show a client what a change request does to the schedule. It not just “we can slip this in, it shouldn’t be a big deal.” Without a WBS you can talk about it, but that doesn’t mean much. With a WBS you can actually show the real impact. So much harder to argue magic (magic in this case = this little task takes up no time at all) when you have real numbers and dates in front of you…
So remember the order should be Ready, Aim, FIRE! You are much more likely to hit your target (due date).
Some of the tools I have used to create WBS: