A work breakdown structure helps divide a project into smaller, more manageable parts that can then be assigned based on importance and priority. In this lesson, we'll learn about the project team and work breakdown structure.
The Project Team
When you look at the tallest skyscraper in the city, do you ever wonder just how it was actually built? It takes hundreds of people to build walls; install windows, doors, and floors; and run electric and plumbing. So, just how does all of this happen?
For one, a project team is formed. This is a group of people that is put together to perform various tasks related to a project. The teams can be made up of workers who have skills in different functional areas of the project. The project team must meet certain criteria. They must:
- Understand the scope of the overall job
- Know how to plan for the completion of the project
- Perform the work within the desired budget and timeframe, and make sure it's up to the expected quality standards
- Report project risks, issues, or concerns to the project manager
- Communicate work statuses
- And most of all, be a team player
Roles of the Project Team
There are three main conventional roles people in a team can take on. The leader is the member who provides leadership through motivation, feedback, and rewards systems. In other words, it is the person's job to inspire others to work more productively and enjoy what they are doing. The people he leads are called members, and they are the people who are actually working on different tasks and are lower on the hierarchy than the team leader.
Some projects use contributors. These guys are very similar to consultants or experts who provide advice to the team leader and members. They generally have some interest in the project but are not members and do not perform tasks. The members are the ones who actually perform the tasks. Speaking of tasks, let's see what exactly a team member should do.
As a team, it is important that each member not only knows but also adheres to the responsibilities and duties of the team as a whole. For one, each member should have a thorough understanding of the quantity and scope of the work. Following plans is also essential. With so many people doing a variety of tasks, being able to follow the work breakdown is important. We'll get to the work breakdown in a moment. Lastly, the team member must be a model of communication throughout the duration of the project.
Now, even the best leader and team cannot build a skyscraper without a plan. That is where the work breakdown structure comes into play.
Work Breakdown Structure
Now that the team is in place, a work breakdown structure needs to be created. This is like a big chart that breaks down the work into chunks. Once the tasks are broken down, the work breakdown will include specific details for each task. Let's see if we can put this into action.
If we were to build a doghouse, we would need a bunch of things. We'd buy wood, carpeting, shingles, a door, and some paint. Oh, we would also need nails and glue. Our work breakdown would look a bit like this. So, you see Fido's Doghouse project will cost us around $320.00, and if every task is completed, that represents 100% of the work needed to build a penthouse for the pooch. I know what you are thinking. Why use a work breakdown structure? If everyone is skilled and has a copy of the blueprints, it seems pretty easy to just build a doghouse.
Organizing Tasks and Time
Not so fast. Let's go back to Fido's new place. We know we had around $320.00 to build the house, but if everyone was grabbing at the money, there may not be enough for everything. So, by allocating a specific amount of money for each of the different tasks, we were able to keep the project within the desired budget.
Next, we had to think about how long each of the tasks would take so that we not only stay on budget but also finish Fido's digs on time. For that, we gave a percentage of time that each task should take, equaling 100%. That's another way to stay on track. By allocating how much time for each task, we can keep a careful eye on whether one task is taking longer. Then, adjustments can be made along the way.
The Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RACI)
Now, our example above was done using a template. However, if you want to get even fancier, you can use a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) to get the job done. Literally. The Responsibility Assignment Matrix, also known as RACI, is similar to our work breakdown but it is a bit more complex. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. Let's break it down.
In order to track the roles and responsibilities of a project, we start with responsible. This asks 'Who will be doing what task?' Then, we check to see who is accountable for the task. Think of this as who will be in hot water if something goes wrong. In other words, who is permitted to make decisions for the project or task?
Next, consulted deals with who has working knowledge of the project and tasks. This is a 2-way communication in that the project manager and the members, for example, discuss the tasks and any issues that arise. Informed is more of a one-way communication that speaks to anyone who has an interest in the project like shareholders or Fido, in our case.
An example may help. Fido's owner, Mr. Picklestein, ordered a doghouse to be built in his backyard. He contracted his old pal Pete, who owns Barker Construction, to do the job. Jim, the team leader, brought his crew consisting of Bert and Mickey to complete the job. So, in the order of the matrix, Bert and Mickey are responsible. Jim is accountable. Pete, as the owner of Barker's, is consulted, and Picklestein is informed.
Do you see how that works? Since Mickey and Bert are actually doing the work, they are responsible to get it done on budget, on time, and at the quality standard expected by Picklestein. Jim is the team leader, so he is accountable because he is supervising the workers. Pete Barker is consulted because he owns the construction company and made the deal with Picklestein. Picklestein is the client, so he is informed as progress happens, if timelines change, or if the budget increases.
On that note, we learned some valuable lessons about how a project is managed, who does what, and even a fancy-schmancy way of tracking things.
To tie it all together, a project team is formed. This is a group of people that is put together to perform various tasks related to a project. As a project team, there are certain responsibilities like understanding the scope of the overall job; planning for completion; keeping to a budget, timeline, and quality standards; reporting risks; and most of all, being a really good team player.
Within the project team, there are leaders, who motivate the team to accomplish goals. Then, there are members, who perform the tasks as assigned in their skill area. Don't forget about the contributors. These are the people who act as consultants on a project.
Work is organized using a work breakdown structure. It's a big chart that breaks the tasks down in different ways. There is something more formal called a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) that is similar to our work breakdown but is a bit more complex. RACI stands for:
- Responsible - who does what task?
- Accountable - who is in charge of making sure the tasks get done?
- Consulted - 2-way communication with interested parties
- Informed - who needs to know information?
In the end, we learned that planning for a project is important, and using a work breakdown structure will help to keep a project on track.
After watching this video, your goal should be to:
- Explain the purpose of a project team
- List the roles that members of a project team fulfill
- Discuss the importance of member responsibilities
- Recall the importance of work breakdown structure and how to organize tasks and time
- Paraphrase what the Responsibility Assignment Matrix means