Who Created the WBS?????

Current mythology is that the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) was developed as part of the PERT program within the US Navy in 1957/58.  I’m not so sure……..  Similar types of chart were around for up to 100 year before the PERT program started:

  • Organization Charts were developed in 1854 but not too widely used (the example shown is from 1917).
  • Cost breakdown charts were in use from 1909 at least (if not sooner).
  • Process diagrams and flow charts were publicized by the Gilbreth’s in 1921.

What I’m looking for is evidence that this type of hierarchical chart focused on work to be accomplished was developed prior to 1957; or alternatively confirmation that the PERT team initiated the idea and the NASA/DoD/PERT-COST people standardized the idea.

A summary of my findings and images of the charts are at: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY-020.php#WBS

Any feedback or input will be welcome.   Over to you……

Project Management history has been a long term interest of mine, for all of my papers see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-ZSY.php

7 responses to “Who Created the WBS?????

  1. @Pat, check out the work by Henri Fayol, a French mining engineer who created the “14 Principles of Management” https://www.12manage.com/methods_fayol_14_principles_of_management.html

    #1 was the “Division of Work”. While Fayol didn’t call it a WBS I think the concept is clear enough.

    Also, as Fayol was influential during the same period as Taylor, Gantt, the Gilbreath’s et al, based on his 14 principles and 5 Elements of Management, I consider Fayol to be the “Father of Modern Project Management”.

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta

  2. In my perception there is a difference between hierarchical diagrams for organizations and other purposes.
    In organizations hierarchy was used in anciant Greece already for religious purposes and later on also mitlitary purposes (e.g. Roman military organization).
    A WBS structuring processes seems to be used first in 20th century.

    • Thanks Helmut.
      Agree the subdivision of labour has been around for millennia – there’s god evidence to this in the building of the pyramids. What I am specifically looking for though is anything related to the breakdown of the work into sections. So far no luck….


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