This question is best described through an example. Imagine you're doing a project to promote a product. You have two equally important deliverables:

  1. Street Advertisement
  2. Social Websites Advertisement

In order to complete those, you need (among other things) some promotional pictures:

  1. Street Advertisement

    1.1 Promotional Pictures

    1.2 ...

  2. Social Websites Advertisement

    2.1 Promotional Pictures

    2.2 ...

But if those promotional pictures are essentially the same, what is to be done in order to avoid repeated or overlapping deliverables?

6 Answers 6


Promote "Promotional Pictures" to a higher level WBS element. So when you break Street and Social down, the promotional pictures does not become part of it.

  • 1
    Thank you David! This is what seems more intuitive to me, but wouldn't it be breaking the 100% rule? (in that neither Street nor Social would include Pictures as a sub-deliverable)
    – ChrisChris
    Jan 17, 2013 at 18:49

Sounds like your schedule could benefit by including dependencies.Promotional Pictures is not a "sub-task" of the two campaigns. It is a predecessor task for whatever step comes after completing the promotional pictures task.

  • Thank you Mark! You're right, maybe the WBS isn't enough by itself to leave that clear.
    – ChrisChris
    Jan 17, 2013 at 19:09

Given the multiple dependencies, 'promotional pictures' would a separate deliverable, and the as the others said, a predecessor to the other deliverables (campaigns).


Remember the 100% rule. If the pictures are shared between media, then listing them under two headings breaks the rule by double-counting.

In some WBS schemes you always put "cross cutting" concerns in their own hierarchy. So some WBSes have items for Work X, Work Y and then a heading for "Project Management Work" to track that in one hierarchy, instead of across the whole project in dribs and drabs.

Similarly, you might have

1. Advertisements
  1.1 Street Advertisements
  1.2 Social Website Advertisements
  1.3 Advertisement Source Media

Where 1.3 is the one you book the photography against.


Typically I've used a product description for each deliverable that goes along with the WBS. That product description would include dependencies so that you can spell out what inputs deliverable X has and what other deliverables X is required for. These can also help capture acceptance criteria, underlying assumptions, owners, budgets, etc etc and are therefore quite useful for large/complex projects (though maybe a bit of overkill for a simple project if you take the product description too far).

In addition, the linkages that you create in your schedule should help to make it clear that the "Promo pictures" are inputs to several other deliverables

If the WBS is the only document that you are working with then I'd go with David's response. Alternatively, you could keep the structure as you outlined in your question and put in a footnote to highlight that 1.1 and 2.1 are similar/identical.

  • Thank you Doug! I actually like the idea of making a footnote, because the dependencies would be immediately clear just by looking at the WBS. I just don't know which option is more broadly accepted!
    – ChrisChris
    Jan 17, 2013 at 19:17
  • 1
    I wouldn't worry about what is more broadly accepted in the PM community. Pick whatever works best for you and see if your key stakeholders (i.e. those that have to interpret that part of the WBS) are OK with it. Project management is all about doing things in a way that is right for your project, not just doing things in a particular way for its own sake.
    – Doug B
    Jan 17, 2013 at 20:49

Our own software takes care of this kind of situation by providing functions for task linking and indenting within the project WBS. In this situation, you'd create 4 tasks:

  1. Photography
  2. Advertisements

    2.1 Street Advertisments

    2.2 Social Website Advertisements

The Photography task would be linked to the Advertisements task, as its predecessor.

  • Hello Joe, welcome to PMSE! I believe that, although your software might solve the issue, the OP is asking from a tool-independent perspective. Let's say that the WBS is being written on paper, how could the problem be solved?
    – Tiago Cardoso
    Jan 30, 2013 at 23:46

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