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Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

The Project Work Breakdown Structure is an outcome oriented analysis of the work involved in the project and defines the total scope of the project. It is a foundation document in project management because it provides the basis for planning and managing the project schedule, budget and requests for changes. The WBS is developed in the form of an inverted tree structure, organized by objectives; it looks like an organizational chart which helps the project team visualize the whole project and all its main components.

The WBS is a hierarchy of all project work, it is a vertical breakdown, moving from the project goal to the tasks or subtasks. This decomposition process allows a good level of confidence in estimating the final project schedule and budget. It shows all the work that needs to be accomplished. The WBS contains 100% of all the work in the project.

At the top level is the project ultimate goal, the second level contains the project outcomes, the third level has the project outputs, and the fourth level with activities. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, the WBS may contain a fourth level that describe the tasks.

The size and complexity of a project will determine the number of levels a WBS needs. For some projects additional levels may be included to represent intermediate objectives. Other projects may choose to structure the WBS by the geographical locations the project will work or group the objectives by the communities participating in the project.

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is an important planning tool used to define a project in terms of its outputs while providing a method for breaking these deliverables into meaningful work units. The WBS allows the project manager to clearly describe the hierarchical nature of the work to be performed and establishes a foundation for other elements of the project planning documents including the project’s resource plan, budget, implementation plan, and project schedule.

With the WBS, the project manager will be able describe the outcomes of a project in a way that is clear to the project team, while at the same time capturing the order and sequence of the work necessary to produce those outputs. The WBS provides a means for carefully detailing the outputs of the project and facilitates the identification of specific the work elements, and groupings required to deliver each element.

 

 
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What is Project Participation?

Participation in project management is a process that allows sharing some of the control on the project with key stakeholders, especially beneficiaries. By giving beneficiaries the opportunity to participate in the decision making elements of project management helps build a sense of ownership on the outcomes of the project.

Ownership of the project outcomes ensures the support and active involvement of stakeholders. When stakeholders know their voices, opinions and preferences are heard, they know the project is meeting their needs. Participation should not be limited to baseline interviews and occasional communication meetings but should be included in all the project phases; from the design, planning, implementation, monitoring, adaptation and closing/evaluation of the project.

Participation is also a political act in which beneficiaries are empowered to have their voices heard and that simple fact changes the power relationships between the project and the stakeholders. Participation is also strategic to the needs of the project as it increases the impact of the project and increases its sustainability beyond the end of the project. But participation is not cheap, requires the use of resources and time, but the benefits of this investment are recovered by the long term impact.

The principle behind participation is that stakeholders are collaborators in the project, not just simple recipients or contributors, but active partners in the project at every phase of the project. All participation approaches are designed to generate an active participation including making key decisions on the project that have a direct influence on the stakeholders and most important they can even help challenge some of the original assumptions the project had about the stakeholders and that can have a significant input in the project design and strategies.

Project managers must built-in participation in the project planning phase, and choose when, what, why, and who will participate; taking in consideration that asking too much participation can also have a negative effect, after all stakeholders have other priorities and activities that the project is competing with. The project manager must be conscious of the time availability and effort needed from stakeholders. Project stakeholders vary and their level of participation also varies depending on who they are and what are their stakes in the project, the project should identify all project stakeholders and evaluate the level of participation needed from each, when the participation is needed, and why the participation will increase the impact of the project. This simple analysis help focus the project resources on the areas that will bring the most benefit.

 

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