I realize that you know that from a traditional project management perspective the correct words behind the acronym WBS are work breakdown structure. Now since you are going to follow best practices and create a WBS as you plan your project; why not consider using it as a team building exercise?
Team building exercises can be really fun and exotic. You can go learn how to country western dance to build your synergy as a team. You can expand your comfort zone by going sky diving or learning to race cars. Not every project team has the time or money for adventure. You can (and should) use regular project activities as team building events.
Consider the creation of the work breakdown structure (WBS). You know that you should not sit in your office constructing the WBS by yourself. Let the people who are doing the work define the work. Let them see how their deliverables begin to translate to assignable activities. This is an excellent opportunity for building trust and relationships through teamwork.
1. Invite the appropriate participants. This means someone from each group participating in the project. (Hint: It is not a bad idea for you key sponsor to observe parts of this activity so that they too gain an understanding of how the work gets defined.)
Note: This could be a very long work session or a series of work sessions. Schedule these sessions with an awareness of your team members availability and other work commitments.
2. Review the scope. If this is the first time the team is hearing the formal scope, this will result in lively discussion. Encourage questions and ‘what-if’ scenarios. If you discourage your team from openly discussing the scope, you have just shut down communications.
3. Ask individuals to work together to identify the key deliverables. Use the ‘sticky note’ or tear sheet approach. This means give the team post-it notes or similar pieces of paper that can be written and moved around. This allows the team to write deliverables (and next activities) on paper and position them at various locations on the proposed WBS.
4. Once the deliverables seem firm, have the team work on the lower levels. Have the group or groups that own each deliverable (or a portion thereof) use the ‘sticky note’ or tear sheet approach to break the work down. Encourage detail. You want the end result to be assignable and measurable work.
5. Make sure that good notes are taken during this session. What we construct during one meeting makes perfect sense at the time. Later, details may be forgotten.
6. Take some time away from the WBS and then revisit it. Walk through it again and make sure it still makes sense. Have team members present their sections to the rest of the team for review and discussion. This helps build an understanding of the entire work effort.
Now you have built a traditional work breakdown structure that the team understands and through your work together you have a built a stronger team. That is why WBS can also mean we build strength!
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