Thursday, May 31, 2012

Decomposition and work breakdown structure

Decomposition” and “work breakdown” are probably not the first words you want to hear with respect to the project you’re managing. However, Decomposition is perhaps the most important technique to understand when it comes to the Scope Management section of the PMP exam. Decomposition involves breaking down the overall project workload into smaller, more manageable tasks. These tasks can subsequently be broken down into smaller tasks until each piece of work can be prioritized, assigned to resources, and tracked in the form of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The idea is to move from large, general deliverables to the specific work packages and tasks that make up each deliverable. In essence, you’re carving up the individual puzzle pieces that make up the puzzle as a whole.

PMI places great importance on Decomposition—you’ll need to know the technique and understand how it is applied to projects. So, what better way to learn about Decomposition than by jumping feet first into the fire (surely there’s joke there…decomposition – fire…but, I digress)! Anyway, why not give it a try on one of your current projects? Apply what you’re studying in real life! Here’s how to get started:

  1. Determine your main project deliverables
  2. Create a high-level Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) by ‘chunking’ work into smaller tasks
  3. Continue to break down high-level tasks into smaller tasks
  4. Create a system for tracking each task
  5. Verify that the resulting tasks are manageable
Just one word of caution: Make sure that you’re not spending more time ‘decomposing,’ tracking, and managing tasks than it would take to simply get the work done. Your job is to simplify—not to create more work!