Years ago, Sensei Project Solutions 1 published a list of 15-20 quality standards for a WBS.

There were even a set of project highlight filters that allowed you to automatically assess the quality of your WBS by highlighting lines that would eventually cause you problems in project management.

For example: (approximate, from memory)

  1. Every task except the first should have a predecessor (if not, you'll never actually understand critical path)
  2. Every task should be phrased as Verb Object (with an active verb) (if not, the deliverable will be muddled and confusing. )
  3. Every task should be unique; the task description should not rely on or reference another. (if not, eventually someone will filter the WBS and wind up with an incomprehensible subset.)

And so on.

Can anyone point to a current list? Or, failing that, start a community wiki answer that includes Gantt quality principles?

1. I'm not affiliated in any way; there are probably other examples, but this is the first one that I found and the one I used most frequently.

1 Answer 1


Strictly, this is about the WBS-element of Gantt chart intended for analysis, such as critical path analysis. I'm saying that because there are separate standards, such as MIL-HBK-881 for WBS as such, written with a view to ensuring that they are useful for contracting and programme oversight.

These criteria do seem to be a sensible start, however ...

In general it's hard to be definitive here, because Gantt charts (e.g. MSProject) are used in so many different ways.

Start by listing the operations you want to do with your Gantt chart in its planning and management steps, then use this to infer what you need to the WBS (task list) to do or to look like.

In other words, start with the functional requirements of the schedule model, which should give you the formatting requirements for one of its components. e.g. derive resource cost by category, create RAM, obtain approval, integrate with other projects ...

Your mileage will vary, since each PM context is different.

(Sorry, annoying university-type answer!)

I would add : comprehensive coverage. Each unit in the WBS should be decomposed to all its subsidiary components at that level, even the easy or trivial ones that come from the infrastructure. This lets you track all costs, and to ensure that the work can be transferred to different environments with different base knowledge or infrastructure.

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