Creating a Work Breakdown Structure (or WBS for short) is an essential step in building a schedule and is the first thing you should do after creating a new project.

A WBS is a hierarchical outline of your schedule that summarizes the various phases of work. In other scheduling applications such as Microsoft Project, a scheduler will typically add all of the activities to the project and then roll up activities into summary tasks, but in P6 the opposite is true; the WBS is created first and activities are then added to the summary layers. While it’s possible to first add activities and then create the WBS, the process for moving activities into their respective summary layer is very tedious, and not recommended. Besides, it’s a better practice to outline the main phases of a project before considering the minutiae of individual tasks.

The first step to creating a WBS is to open the WBS screen. This part is often confusing for new users since P6 uses a separate screen to add and manage activities. To open the WBS screen, you can either select on ‘project’ from the menu bar and select ‘WBS,’ or you can select the WBS icon on the toolbar.

WBS Work Breakdown Structure tool in Primavera P6 Professional
Project menu to select WBS Work Breakdown Structure in Primavera P6 Professional

The WBS screen looks and functions similarly to the Activities and Projects Screens. There’s a top half that’s divided into a table and a Gantt Chart, and a bottom half for entering more detailed data. When you first open the WBS screen after creating a project, the project itself will be the first layer in the hierarchy on the table. All layers that are added to the WBS will be placed under the project layer, and if you add multiple layers without adjusting anything, newly added layers will be placed a layer lower in the hierarchy than the last layer added.  

There are several ways to add new layers, from the menu bar, toolbar, right-click menu, and by selecting insert on your keyboard. I prefer to use the keyboard shortcut.

Edit menu to add layer to WBS in Primavera P6 Professional

Summarizing a project schedule is up to the discretion of the scheduler, but generally it will be something like <Procurement> <Pre Construction> <Construction>, with each layer summarized further to represent each stage of the project (for example, construction can be summarized into <Grading> <Foundation> etc.). 

After adding a layer to the WBS, you will be prompted to create a new WBS ID, which I recommend skipping since P6 will automatically and intelligently create IDs for you. You can name WBS layers by selecting the WBS name cell or by using the details section.

Add new layer to WBS in Primavera P6 Professional

Once you’ve added a few layers you can move them around the hierarchy using the arrows on the toolbar or by holding down CTRL and using the arrows on your keyboard.

Move WBS layer in Primavera P6 Professional
WBS hierarchal layer structure in Primavera P6 Professional

Here is what a finished WBS should look like: I have several top level layers summarizing broad phases of my project, all containing several child layers that further breakdown the project into manageable phases.

Completed WBS Work Breakdown Structure in Primavera P6 Professional

To learn more about the Work breakdown Structure or other P6 fundamental topics, I recommend checking out our new self-paced hands-on course:


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