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Work packaging defined: from a project control mechanism to a project planning mechanism

The concept of breaking down projects into manageable work packages is one of the fundamental concepts of the Project Management body of knowledge and the execution theory. Early major work packaging research focused on project control, examining the coding relationship of work packages to time, cost, and people as represented by the work breakdown structure (WBS), organizational breakdown structure (OBS), and cost breakdown structure (CBS). The Project Management Institute (PMI) recommends using work breakdown structures (WBS) to subdivide a project into smaller manageable pieces (PMBOK 2004). “[A Work Package is] a deliverable at the lowest level of the work breakdown structure. A work package may be divided into activities. Also can be an accountable item of work.” (PMI 1996).

In 1987 the Construction Industry Institute (CII) developed a report “Work packaging for project control” in which they also recommend breaking down projects into manageable work packages and give guidelines for using work packaging for project control. However, this "research has been devoted to examining the conceptual applicability of the work packaging concept and applying it as a general managerial tool. Only limited attention has been paid to the actual work packaging process” (Kim et al., 1995). More recent research efforts, including the Lean Construction approach as well as WorkFace Planning practices by the Construction Owners of Albert (COAA), were directed to determining effective work packaging methods and best practices.

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