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What Is an Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS)?
An organizational breakdown structure is a document that your business can use in conjunction with its workflow schedule and resource breakdown to organize the people who will be working on a particular project. The OBS details who reports to whom, the details of the hierarchy and the reporting structure.
Organizational breakdown structures are normally communicated visually through the use of graphs or charts. A project or general manager is listed and underneath the PM several divisions might be created, such as Civil Site Dept., Engineering Dept., QA/QC Dept., Safety Dept., Planning Dept., Contract’s Dept., Cost Dept., QS Dept., product development, design, materials management and production. Under these divisions might be several sub-categories or names of employees listed directly under the larger divisions. You can think of the OBS as a tree; each branch indicates a working relationship and lateral communication responsibility. The nearer to the top of the OBS that a person is, the more likely that person is to have broader responsibilities.
OBS in Oracle Primavera P6 R 19.12
The OBS works well in conjunction with a workflow schedule. This is a document that details what each person listed in the OBS is supposed to do in fulfilment of the project’s objectives. Ideally, people are assigned to tasks that match their interests and their strengths. This fosters a sense of ownership in the project and assumes that people will take responsibility for the development and completion of their assignments. In smaller organizations, project members may be called upon to fulfil multiple roles. In these cases, the OBS and the workflow schedule are even more important for keeping people on target, helping them set goals and in communicating the details regarding their direct obligations to the project.
The resource breakdown is another key element contained within the OBS. A resource breakdown is a list of all the monetary funds, physical equipment and manpower that you’ll need to complete a project. A traditional way to approach this part of the OBS is to create another tree that has various branches to indicate where resources need to be funneled. Another approach is to poll team members after they’ve been assigned a task to ask them what they need in order to successfully complete it. If budgeting isn’t an issue for your business, this latter approach might be the better way to go — it gives team members a sense of control over their various portions of the project and puts the management of the budget and the resources directly within the hands of those using the materials
The more detailed an OBS and its related workflow schedule and resource breakdown, the more in-tune with the project’s goals and objectives your team members are likely to be. That being said, often the best approach to project management is to keep things as simple as possible. Have the details worked out and ready for perusal, but try not to communicate in an overly complex way. Focus on meeting individual, manageable goals and strive for effective and efficient work output. Constantly reiterating that a project is behind schedule or other budget isn’t motivating to your employees and can actually hurt their productivity. Well any OBS is to be integrated with a Project Baseline / Schedule to understood its complete purpose and fulfill the deliverables by meeting the organizational objectives
OBS in Microsoft Visio
Chart View of OBS in Primavera
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), PMI, Sixth Ed.
The Standard for Organizational Project Management (2018), PMI.
Forecast Scheduling with Microsoft Project 2010, Eric Uyttewall, PMP