3 Rules for the Work Breakdown Structure

The Work Breakdown Structure defines and communicates “what” is to be done in a project.  The scope of the project.  The best WBS follows three rules:

  1. Break the overall work into logical pieces and construct a hierarchical structure with those pieces;
  2. Express the work in nouns, no verbs in the WBS. The WBS contains the things(products and services) that are to be delivered and breaks those things into pieces (still things);
  3. No dependencies, no durations. WBS can point to, but not contain the dependencies, resource needs or durations of activities. These qualities are needed in successful planning, but should be separable from the WBS. How we accomplish the delivery of the things represented in the WBS is outside the WBS proper. As you develop the WBS you can note and document the “How do we do it”, but that information needs to be kept separate for the WBS. Some of this information is communicated in the WBS Dictionary. (More on that later)

If you conceptually and literally keep the “How” separate from the “What”, you will plan projects that can be more successful. What many project managers and others do in the planning of efforts is to combine the WBS with the Activities Breakdown Structure or ABS. The function of the ABS is to take the lowest level of the WBS (the work package or work unit) and document the planned activities needed to accomplish this work package.

There is value in separating these two planning devices. Anyone who has asked the question, “What are we trying to accomplish?”, when you are in the middle of executing a project can attest; we can get lost in the doing and lose sight of what is to be done. Even the most intuitive project manager needs to be able to unbundle the “what” from the “how” to be able to communicate clearly to other stakeholders.

Another way of looking at the WBS and ABS is to relate it to “a Means to an End.”   The WBS defines the “End” and the pieces that make up the “End”. The ABS shows the means or what do we have to do to get the “End” desired.

Allen Evitts Response to Key Requirements for Training Position

This post gives my reader an example of the type of information required by client companies when searching for contract trainers or project managers.  The client company (which will remain anonymous) has posed several key requirements for the position of Training Consultant.  I know the company is European and that the engagement is for the USA.

Below are my responses.  They are the actual responses to the question posed and they were posted today.  I repeat them here for the readers information and education.

** Recruiters: All the information below is in my resume.  It is simply reformed to answer the specific requirement.  I’m always looking for new partners 🙂

Training Consultant – USA –

Key Requirements

Candidate: Allen Evitts, allen@abevitts.com, 919-842-6849

1) Multinational industry experience. Allen Evitts has professional experience with several multinational companies including AT&T, BellSouth, GE, Lowes, and Pepsico.  Allen has managed cross-functional teams located in multiple time zones and multiple countries.  He has instructed multinational groups and has taught outside the United States.
2) Strong corporate experience and credibility. Allen Evitts has worked as a Project Manager, Business Analyst, and Instructor for client companies including AT&T, BellSouth, Cingular, General Electric, Lowe’s, Nextel (Sprint), Syngenta, US Marine Corp, US Coast Guard, Bureau of Fiscal Service (Treasury Department), Pepsico, Honda Aircraft, and Sanofi.
3) Flexible / adaptable style for different corporate and national cultures. Allen Evitts has experience in multiple cultures.  He is skilled in cross cultural training.  He has worked with many groups across diverse cultural, experiential and socio-economic ranges.  Allen is equally comfortable working with executives, senior managers, directors, development teams, customer service reps, architects, QA analysts, “craft”, HR professionals, carpenters, electricians, soldiers, and project managers.  Allen has managed cross-functional teams from India and Israel as  well as teams with members in multiple countries.
4) Experience of global, remote/virtual team or matrix working. Allen Evitts has managed global, remote/virtual teams.   His experience with AT&T and Cingular had him regularly managing virtual teams juggling the challenges of having half the team half a world away (India).  He successfully managed the challenges of cultural differences, holiday differences and time zone differences.Allen has presented virtual webinars for IBM with hundreds of global participants.
5) Training/consulting at high level. Allen Evitts has facilitated/train corporate clients and government organizations in subjects including:

  • Essential Project Manager: Practical Skills for Getting Things Done
  • The 90%… Managing Successful Projects through Communications
  • Essential Leadership Skills for Project Managers
  • Project Quality Management: Six Sigma and Beyond
  • Negotiation Skills for Project Professionals
  • Scope, Schedule, and Cost Control for Project Managers
  • Earned Value Analysis and Management
  • PMP Preparation: Preparing for the Project Management Professional Exam
  • Getting Things Done: Project Management for Entrepreneurs
  • One Page Project Plan
  • Managing Projects with MS Project
  • Team Building for Project Professionals
  • Project Management for Non-Project Managers
  • The Practical Project Manager
  • Ethics for Project Managers
  • Business Analysis Basics
  • Developing User Requirements
  • Modeling Business Processes for Business Analysts
  • Cross Training PM and BA
  • Communicating with Metrics
  • Getting What You Want: Negotiation, Persuasion and Decision Making
  • The Art of Persuasion
  • Talking on your Feet: Public Speaking in the 21st Century
  • Dealing with Difficult People: Practical Communications

Allen consulted as a contract Project manager, Program Manager, and Business Analyst for 20 + years to the client companies that are noted above.

6) Ability to work with some ambiguity, as programs are not standard scripted presentations. Allen Evitts is experienced with ambiguity.  He is trained in improvisation and extemporaneous speaking.   He is experienced in dealing with numerous issues in logistics and presentation challenges.  He does not script any of his curriculum.  The slides present the outline and he uses the class’s experience as a guide to make each training session a unique and successful experience.
7) Facilitation skills to work with process tools and connect them to the audience live. Allen Evitts was a professional actor and storyteller before he entered corporate life.  He has great skills at connecting to the audience.  He is very capable in using any and all process and technologies to enhance the audience experience and the learning objectives.
8) Fluent in English essential, fluent Spanish desirable. Allen Evitts is a fluent in English.
9) Desire to travel. Allen Evitts is very comfortable with travel.  He has a current passport and lives close to a major airport.  He also likes driving and currently drives to several clients in the South that are more accessible by road.
10) Someone with gravitas and works well on their feet. Allen Evitts is a charismatic teacher who rarely sits still in a classroom.  He is not sedentary.  In class he is always active, using the entire space.  He actively works with each group during breakouts and keeps tabs with all participants.
11) High degree of integrity. Allen Evitts has integrity.  He is PMP certified in which he has sworn to statements of integrity.
12) Low maintenance “easy to work with”. Allen Evitts is low maintenance.  He can drive his own car, make his own reservations, set up his own computer, distribute his own materials …  and he cooks.  Allen does not sweat the small stuff.
13) Preferably based East coast of US (through they will consider other US locations). Allen Evitts is located in Raleigh, NC.  He lives 20 minutes from an International airport.

Essential Project Manager: Practical Skills for Getting Things Done

Essential Project Manager Model
Essential Project Manager Model

Essential Project Manager: Practical Skills for Getting Things Done

Course Length: 1 or 2 day

PDUs: 7 or 14

Prerequisites: None

Advanced Preparation: None

Course Fee: TBD

Course Hours: 8:30AM – 4:15PM

Essential Project Manager: Practical Skills for Getting Things Done  simplifies complex concepts concerning projects.  People tend to complicate things.  Projects are no exception.  We will learn a straight forward philosophy of how to manage projects successfully, large and small.

This model of success is based on 3 essential qualities that all successful project managers embody: leadership, effective communications and implementation of appropriate structure to the project.

Leadership, Communications and Structure are the triad of success for project managers and Essential Project Manager: Practical Skills for Getting Things Done shows the student how to develop these qualities and how to use them in their professional lives.

Workshop Objectives:

  • Understand how to simplify the complexity of communications within a group
  • Understand how project managers are leaders
  • Identify leadership qualities and how to maintain them
  • Build leadership tactics that are useful in projects
  • Understand communication in projects
  • Develop interpersonal communications tactics
  • Build successful communications with virtual and cross-cultural teams
  • Understand deliverables in terms of communication of completed requirements
  • Embrace the concept of C3: Clear, Concise and Complete
  • Evaluate the structure inherent in an organization
  • Understand how specific project structure affects project success
  • Implement the appropriate structure for the project to meet the needs of the organization and drive the project to success
  • Learn to integrate your leadership and communication skills to drive a project to success.


Project Manager: bureaucrat or innovator?

3D People Team Concept









Are you a bureaucrat, or an innovator?  Do you defend and maintain the status quo or lead groups into change?

Professional project management is in crisis.

I hear you what you’re thinking. “YOU’RE CRAZY!”  I know.  I know that the profession is growing and that standards are becoming the norm in companies. I know that project management has visibility if not respect across the world.  I know that major colleges are offering degrees in project management.  So what am I talking about?  What is this crisis?

Project managers are mainstreamed into companies now.  In most Fortune 500 companies “project manager” is a job title, not simply a description of a role.  Is this good?  You may say, “Heck yes.  We’ve been fighting for recognition and position for 30 years!”  Okay.  We have fought to be respected for the value we bring organizations.  But, what exactly do we have now?  Have we traded too much for respect?  For value?

Being a project manager is a step on the corporate ladder.  It’s not at the top.  It’s not at the bottom.   But, project managers are in the game.   Where is the project manager in corporate hierarchies? Project managers hold a middle position.  Project managers are now middle managers in companies.  And, they can rise only so far before these talented project managers hit a ceiling.

The profession of project manager is limited to the middle zone on the corporate structure.   Project managers contractors are brought in to fill a void in managing projects, because companies can’t keep talented people in the middle level management positions indefinitely.  In structuring this talent pool of middle managers and contractors, companies now structure the processes around project management more and more.  They use a model such as Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Book of Knowledge (PMBoK).  This model is a valid set of processes, tools and techniques that add structure to projects, but instituted into corporate structure that are already tend to bulge with middle management, this model breeds bureaucracies.

Project managers are becoming bureaucrats. We (because I am one) serve the corporate governance board more than our project teams.  This is not why I became a project manager.

When I started managing projects I was someone who could “get things done”.  I used a natural gift and experiences in life to lead successful projects.  I studied “classic” project management methodology as I worked and used what fit, discarded what didn’t.  I had a fairly typical experience for a 50 year old in this profession.

Getting projects delivered on time, on budget and with high quality was all that mattered.  Documentation mattered, but there was less CYA and more PTM (Product to Market).

By the way, aren’t projects about creating something that hasn’t been done before?  A new product?  A new application?  A new release?  A new building?  Right?  We aren’t managing the re-creation of a past innovative act.  We are leading a team of innovators;  This is what project management is all about.   The changes may be small, but the projects produce something unique, something new.

I went to my local PMI chapter meeting and the presentation was advocating getting leadership into project management.  My question is,  “where did it go?”  I think leadership is essential to project management, not an optional feature.  Leadership to innovation…by definition.

Project management is in crisis.  What will drive?  Who will we be?  In the next 20 years, will project managers be the agents of change?  Or will they represent the status quo?   The first step is to answer this question…Are you a bureaucrat?  or an innovator?

What is a Project?

Project management word cloud






What is a project?

A project is an organized effort that has a distinct beginning,  middle and end.  This effort is undertaken with both external and internal constraints of cost, resources, time, and quality of results. . .  Oh, and the original scope of the effort may change.

That’s a clean definition.  As long as we all agree on the meaning of the included words we have no misunderstandings. . .right?

Then why is project managing a multi-billion dollar industry and growing?  Why is the need for standards and methodologies important?  Why are recent graduate coming out of school with degrees in Project Management?  Why are there conferences and Webinars, certifications and support groups for project managers?

We could look at this definition, dissect it, define each word, and get agreement on the definition of each word.  Then we could move to the phrase and repeat the process until we have … wait for it AGREEMENT!!

But, we may still not have understanding.  And, more importantly we may not be more successful managing projects, working with projects, understanding the practical nature of projects and how they fit into our corporate lives, indeed our lives.

Why?  Why is this focused, intelligent (let’s assume)  approach not going to give us the results that we seek?  Where’s the flaw?

Project are organized by people, not machines.  Projects are executed by people, not machines.  Project affect people, not machines.

People are complex organisms, much more complex than the most complex computer.  This complexity is our challenge as project management professionals (small case intended).

I’m on a personal quest to determine how people can be more consistently successful when working in a project driven environment.   This blog is an extension of that quest.  Come with me on the journey.

Projects as Instruments of Change

“People hate change . . .And that’s because people hate change. . . .I want to be sure that you get my point.  People really hate change.  They really, really do.”

—Steve McMenamin, The Atlantic Systems Guild, London (1996)

So, do you agree?  Do people hate change?  Change is all around us.  Here in the spring, we literally see it every day.  And we hear and read the sermons on change every time we look at a Social Media article or Blog or Tweet.

We have saying like, “The only sure thing is death and taxes.”  We look in the mirror and then at an old picture; we regrettably know for sure that change exists.

But, we indeed hate change.  We rely on sameness and predictability of our environment and the people we work with to keep us productive and sane.  And then…things change.  We hate it.

So, what is a project manager to do?  Projects are vehicles of change and project manager the skippers of these ships.  What are we to do?

Embrace change as a reality and deal with the issue of change aversion in everyone.  Do you agree?  I think this is a profound realization.

Your thought and ideas are welcome.  Am I wrong?

Effective Training for Successful Projects

Effective Training for Successful Projects