The Practice of using a WBS – reading between the lines

By Raju Rao , PMP, SCPM,

Certified OPM3 Professional

Chennai, India


Using a WBS – Is it so simple ?

Various project management standards for example PMI, NASA and DOD have established that a work breakdown structure (WBS) is a basic tool and have described the methodology  to be followed.  However, it remains to be seen if practitioners are actually following the best practices.  If we do an informal survey on how well the WBS is understood or applied we will observe that not everyone knows how to use it effectively and we have a long way to go.  In my view, it is still not a standardized process across practitioners.  There seems to be a gap between the processes mentioned in the standards and practices actually followed.  What are the areas of differences and what could be the reasons for such a disconnect to exist?

a)    The standards do not indicate tools / techniques which can be applied specifically for a domain or situation but are generalized with a lot of scope for improvisation to suit the context

b)    The knowledge and practice on this subject is still evolving

c)    There is still some confusion on its purpose and its area of use and the way it can be applied

d)    More effort is required through training sessions and workshops to help practitioners apply it in their work

Standards for WBS

Many standards on the WBS have been developed over the years. The most well known include…


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About the Author

Raju Rao


Raju Rao, PMP, SCPM, OPM3CC is principal consultant with Xtraplus Solutions, a PM consulting and training company based in Chennai, India.  Mr. Rao has a B.Tech degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Madras, India; a Diploma in Management from the University of Bombay; an Advanced PM certificate from Stanford University; and a certificate from IIM Calcutta. Mr. Rao has over 30 years’ experience in engineering, process and project management and has been an active member of PMI for several years. He held leadership positions in both the 1st and 2nd edition projects of OPM3 and has been involved in development of several PMI standards.  He has presented numerous papers in global congresses and is the co-author of two books – Project Management Circa 2025 published by PMI and Organizational Project Management published by Management Concepts, USA.   Raju is President of South India section of AACE International and founder of the Indian Project Management Forum. Raju Rao lives in Chennai, India and can be contacted at [email protected].