I understand that a project plan (schedule) is much more than a WBS task list. It depends on how you organize your project schedule - may be into phases, may be modules. Phases might have overlapping WBS items, where as modules may not.

I also understand that the plan will contain more items than WBS. But I would hope that it is good to track your plan has accommodated all the WBS items in it as they are deliverables. I am using MS project and there is a WBS code column. Shall I be using it for cross reference? If so, is it ok to have that column blank for many activities that will not have a corresponding direct package reference. Or shall I use the code for the parent item that activity may fall under?

Thank you for clarifying.

3 Answers 3


A project plan (schedule) must accommodated all the WBS items along with time needed for staffing, logistics, environment setups, required approvals, holidays, team member's time off (not all people work 40 hours a week), planned vacations, needed training and other such activities too. Not all activities in project plan would be having WBS code. So it is absolutely fine to have the column blank for many activities. Alex Burton wrote a blog post "Effective Project Management with MS Project – Planning for holidays" here: http://epmsource.com/2010/01/11/effective-project-management-with-ms-project-planning-for-holidays/

Hope this will help. Thanks.


The two objectives of maintaining a schedule is to 1) know when to bring resources--both human, materials, and money--to bear and 2) build a capability to know how you are progressing in both actuals compared to plan and your prediction of where you are headed.

The questions you are asking are the right things to ask but it really comes down to WHAT MAKES SENSE TO YOU so that you can maintain control. I have seen so many approaches that work so your approach really needs to evolve through experience, where over time you develop the one that fits your mental model such that you can safely say your project is under control.

My approach is to keep it as simple as possible, where I overlay the WBS into the schedule. My leaf level WBS is what I consider the work package and I may or may not decompose the package into lower level activities, depending if I think it makes sense. Some types of activities I would use a separate calendar, such as JAD sessions, because they can shift a day or two at a moment's notice, you can add or delete as you need them, and putting them into the schedule that is supposed to be under change control simply does not make sense. It would quickly not represent reality since reality can change tomorrow. And sessions moving around, adding or deleting, does not affect the baseline at the work package level.

But that is what makes sense to me. It is extremely important you develop an approach that makes sense to you. Trial and error is the way to go.

  • I don't think we need to schedule JAD sessions in project plan, do we? I mean, it will be part of say analysis section of the task - if required. Ideally, the analysis has happened either before or on that day. If it is later, then the task itself is delayed. So I think it is perfectly ok to track the analysis in the gantt chart, or Am I wrong?
    – Alex J
    Nov 30, 2014 at 15:54

You are right, the WBS and your project schedule are strongly related, but allow me to add a small nuance to your first line: WBS task list.

A project management best practice (PMI or Prince2) is to create a product oriented WBS or product breakdown structure.

Once you have your product oriented WBS, you can structure your planning based on it.

If you want to know how to create a product oriented WBS, I suggest you to read my article "how to create a product breakdown structure". You will find the process and an example.

About how to create a planning, from my experience, the 6 first steps are:

  1. Open the latest version of you work breakdown structure to outline the schedule
  2. Ask to your team what needs to be done to deliver what is in the work breakdown structure
  3. Identify with your team in which sequence they suggest to do the activities
  4. Get to know what the team need to work on the tasks to deliver what is in your scope
  5. Get the first estimations of the effort and duration
  6. Consolidate all the information in the project management tool you will use to manage the project schedule

In my article “6 steps for creating a project schedule”, I write also about what happen after you follow these steps and things to keep in mind to create great project schedules.

I hope this helps!



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