WBS Dictionary: A Comprehensive Guide and Template for Project Management

In project management, a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a valuable tool for organizing and planning project deliverables. However, to ensure effective project execution, it is crucial to create a WBS Dictionary, which provides detailed descriptions of key information for all Elements in the WBS. This article will explain what a WBS Dictionary is, provide a WBS Dictionary template, and guide you through the process of creating one.

What is a WBS Dictionary?

The WBS Dictionary is an essential component of the scope baseline, along with the Scope Statement and the Work Breakdown Structure. It is a formal project document that captures detailed descriptions of each Element in the WBS. Without a WBS Dictionary, a project lacks a complete baseline, making it impossible to measure or monitor scope performance accurately.

WBS Dictionary Template

To facilitate the creation of a WBS Dictionary, a template can be used. Here is a sample WBS Dictionary template presented in a table format:

SLItem NameItem Description
1WBS CodeEnter the WBS Title and identify it as a Work Package, Planning and/or Control Account.
2Responsible Organization/ IndividualName the single organization, group, or individual responsible for ensuring the completion of the Work Package. Include contact information.
3DescriptionDefine the boundaries of the Work Package and clarify the scope content, including what is included and excluded. For Planning Packages, describe the known and unknown scope.
4DeliverablesIdentify the product, service, or results created upon completing the work in this Work Package. Include any critical intermediate deliverables.
5Acceptance CriteriaDescribe the functional and physical requirements necessary to meet customer expectations and quality standards. Include any unique approvals required for acceptance.
6BudgetAllocate the budget for this Work Package, along with critical resource information and assumptions.
7MilestonesList Start Dates, End Dates, Intermediate Milestones, Interdependencies, Constraints, and assumptions related to deliverables.
8RisksInclude known threats and opportunities along with response strategies.
9Additional InformationProvide any additional information such as references or related work packages.
10ApprovalsDate: Revised:
WBS Dictionary Template

How to Create a WBS Dictionary:

Creating a WBS Dictionary follows a hierarchical approach, starting from the Level 1 Elements down to the Work Packages. Here are the steps to create a WBS Dictionary:

  1. Assemble Project Team and Validate 100% Rule:
    Gather subject matter experts (SMEs) from the project team and review the WBS to ensure it complies with the 100% Rule, capturing the entire project scope. Revise the WBS based on feedback from SMEs.
  2. Create Level 1 Element Content:
    Using the WBS Dictionary template, create content for each Level 1 WBS Element. This includes providing a WBS Level 1 ID Code and Title, defining Element boundaries, identifying primary deliverables, specifying acceptance criteria, setting a summary budget, listing milestones, and addressing key risks.
  3. Confirm Level 1 Elements:
    Return to the WBS and check if any Level 1 Elements need revision based on the newly created content from the WBS Dictionary. Ensure that the Level 1 Elements capture 100% of the project scope.
  4. Create Remaining Element Content:
    Continue creating content for the remaining Elements (Level 2, 3, etc.) using the same template. Adjust the content to reflect the respective Element levels.
  5. Create Work Package Content:
    Using the provided template, create content for each Work Package Element. Include the WBS Level 1 ID Code and Title, responsible organization/individual, description, deliverables, acceptance criteria, budget, milestones, and risks.
  6. Validate 100% Rule:
    Validate that the WBS Dictionary adequately captures the scope required to produce the deliverable. Ensure that it reflects 100% of the project scope.

Usage of WBS Dictionary:

The WBS Dictionary serves as a critical scope planning tool and is used in various project management activities. Here’s how you can leverage a WBS Dictionary effectively:

  1. Work Authorization Documents:
    Based on the information provided in the WBS Dictionary’s Work Package section, prepare work authorization documents to execute the work. These documents ensure that deliverables meet acceptance criteria and can be transferred to the customer.
  2. Schedule Activities and Cost Estimates:
    The WBS Dictionary is a primary input for creating and monitoring schedule activities and cost estimates. By decomposing Work Packages into activities, a schedule can be built using a Gantt chart format. Cost estimates can then be created at the activity level and aggregated through the WBS, allowing for effective cost monitoring and control.


The WBS Dictionary is a crucial project management document that complements the Work Breakdown Structure. By providing detailed descriptions of each Element, the WBS Dictionary helps ensure effective project planning, execution, and control. By using the provided WBS Dictionary template and following the step-by-step process, project managers can create a comprehensive and informative WBS Dictionary for successful project outcomes.

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