In reading about Work Breakdown Structure in project management and systems engineering, I came to the realization that there is a fine line that one must walk when using this methodology. On one hand, it is crucial to break large projects down into more manageable ‘bite-sized’ pieces in order for the team to see progress and address critical parts carefully. On the other hand, there are some inherent risks that come with breaking projects down and having various people/teams work on parts of the whole, as many large corporations are forced to do.
First, there is an issue of work quality. Even if you hire a team with extremely similar skills and backgrounds, odds are, they still have various skill levels and various expertise. By breaking a project down and having individual teams/members address parts of the whole rather than the entire project, you run the risk of the individual ‘pieces’ having various levels of quality, differing perspectives, or, if written, different voices. A way to mitigate this would be to designate an individual (such as a project manager) to act as an editor for the various pieces to ensure that all parts are consistent when put together to form the greater whole of the project.
A second issue is that when people are working on part of a project, it can be difficult for them to see the big picture. Without seeing and understanding the full project scope, people aren’t as likely to be invested in the work, and they may not produce at the level of quality that is desired. This is why it’s crucial to ensure that people understand the big picture that they’re working toward. Project managers should not only articulate the main goal/big picture at the onset of a project, but they should reiterate it throughout the project breakdown and as various steps are completed. This not only ensures that employees are all staying on track and working toward the same goal, but also helps promote employee ‘buy-in’ on the overall project and keeps employees motivated throughout it.