Tag Archives: Level Of Detail

Reader Q&A: The WBS and Cost

I wanted to share an email question I received through a Twitter contact of mine and my response.? Feel free to chip in with your own insights!

photo by Tracy O

photo by Tracy O


I hope you don’t mind me coming to you for advise and help with Project Management. I have this one question which I keep pondering on. In what way would you say that monitoring, planning and controlling project cost with a budget and organizing and planning a project using the WBS help or support one another?


My response:

Glad we connected on Twitter!? In my projects, the WBS is one of the key things that helps me with planning and monitoring costs.? The WBS is a prerequisite.? When I have a WBS, I can look at it and see where I should have charge codes set up for project staff, and where I should be reporting project costs.? Usually there is a specific level of detail that is relevant to various people.? The sponsor may want to see costs at level 3 of the WBS, and I may be interested in a little more detail at level 4, and the other project managers who work with me may be looking at level 5.? You may have specific stakeholders who only care about level 3 cost reporting for a particular element of the project, etc.

When putting estimates together, it’s important to first have a clear idea of what your scope is, and much of that comes from the WBS.? Bucket your basis of estimates this way, schedule, etc.? The iron triangle means that scope, cost, and schedule are integrated.

Monitoring and controlling your projects through status reports, EVM, etc.?? can really only done effectively by keeping in lock-step with your WBS structure.

Add your thoughts by leaving a comment for our reader below!

Common Language is the Key to Project Management

Imagine being asked to work on a project, only you don?t speak the language in the country in which it will be conducted. You wouldn?t get very far, and you?d most likely experience a lot of raised eyebrows because all you could do is point and smile. Sharing a common language is not the same thing as speaking the same mother tongue. But, as project managers will tell you, project-speak has a dialect all its own. Whether in Singapore or Stockholm, communicating what you mean in business is critical to completing a project on budget and time.

An emerging global business culture has brought with it an ever-expanding language of ‘project-speak’ that you hear in boardrooms around the world. My advice is to learn the lingo in your field as quickly as possible to maintain your competitive edge.

The more diverse the field, the more terms are needed to operate within it. With over three decades of experience with project managers from Shanghai to Stuttgart to Salt Lake City, I have witnessed an explosion of new terminology in project management first-hand (from just over 1,600 terms in the 90’s to over 3,400 today). As globalization broadens markets, the language required to keep up grows with it. What you say is as important as how you say it.

Let?s take the term ?drill down?. In the oil industry, you might think it refers to the act of seeking oil under the Earth?s surface. In project-speak, it actually means the act of moving from a summarized view of data into a lower level of detail. While on an oil rig in the North Sea, you would want to know the difference.

Or consider ?unk-unks?. No, it?s not a Bali starling mating call, but a risk management term that stands for unknown unknowns (risks that are unknowable). ?Pound of flesh? is another favorite, eliciting scenes from your favorite horror movie. In project management, however, it really means you’re going to have to pay someone back in a huge way for doing something for you. Aside from the obvious hard skills, language is key in project management. After all, projects are people.

There exists an international business culture that has emerged as a result of globalization and cross-border and cross-functional project activity. Managers worldwide tend to be a highly educated, well-credentialed body of professionals who are apt to read the same business books and who listen to the same lecturers and pundits on various topics. It’s best to learn the language so, when you attend meetings, collaborate on projects or are involved in any business activity, you understand what people are saying. And, perhaps more importantly, when it?s your turn to speak up, they understand you, too.