Dear PM Advisor,
What’s a WBS Dictionary and how do you use it?
Poor Speller in Chicago
Dear Poor Speller,
The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is the oldest tool in the Project Manager’s toolkit and one of the more graphic ones. It is the first opportunity for the PM to express his style as he shows the way he intends to organize the project. Will he organize it by phase, function, or deliverable? How many levels will he go before work starts to be done? I always love watching the way a PM drafts his WBS; it is a look into his mind.
One thing about a graphic tool such as a WBS: there is no room for paragraphs or even sentences. Nouns and adjectives are all you have room to work with. And sometimes a chunk of work requires more than that to allow those executing the work to know what needs to be done. That’s where the WBS Dictionary comes in. It is a tool that provides more detail around a piece of work that is in the WBS. Not every WBS element must be defined, just those that need it.
I don’t strictly use a WBS Dictionary as a stand-alone tool. But when I enter WBS elements into the Gantt chart, I’ll use the Notes tab on that line to enter additional details.
Send your questions to Bruce@RoundTablePM.com