Mention Project Management software and most people’s thoughts will automatically go to Microsoft Project or newer web based tools such as Trello. What these tools lack though is the ability to assist in the planning process at the beginning of a project. You might even think that planning out a task list and preparing a schedule is what we mean by planning, however, there is a stage way before that and this is why I believe that mind mapping is essential in project management.
Don’t Just Dive In
One thing all projects have in common is that they are kicked off by an idea or a need to improve something or solve a challenge and as a result will have an end goal that will be beneficial for the business, for example,
- Build a website
- Move office
- Build something
- Increase sales
- Improve production
The possibilities on the type of project are endless but they can’t begin without proper planning.
Project planning can be considered as the mapping out of how to get from the idea to the end goal. The way forward is not always clear, so think of project planning as an exercise in working your way back from the end result to agree on what needs to be done to get there.
Businesses from brick and mortar shops to software development companies face challenges every day and solving them will often become a project. The first task in project planning should be to understand the extent of the challenge or problem and work out the many possible ways there could be to solve it.
For this, you need to understand the current situation, what is the ultimate outcome, what is currently working, what isn’t working and what are the possible options to achieve the end goal.
Mapping Your Way Through Any Challenge
Mind mapping for projects isn’t about pictures and drawings in the way most people would think when they hear the term mind map. In a project planning context, mind mapping is about breaking down information to decide on the best and most appropriate action needed. As in the image above, the questions to be addressed are set out and the responses from everyone involved can be captured quickly and easily and in no particular order.
This approach ensures everyone’s thoughts are captured, there are no barriers in gathering the information and the result is a visual representation of every possible scenario.
This should be a questioning exercise where all scenarios are exhausted and address the what, why, who, when and where. The what provides answers to the expected outcome, the why provides justification that the project is required and isn’t a waste of time and resource, the who outlines the critical roles that will be needed to deliver the project, the when provides the time in which the team will have to deliver the project and finally the where outlines the location in which the work will be carried out. Only then should you move onto the how which is the way in which the project will be delivered.
Analysis can then begin on which of the possible scenarios is the right way forward for the business. Assumptions made on the right course of action at the outset before going through the mapping exercise might not turn out to be the right way forward once you’ve gone through your questions and exhausted everyone’s brains to get all their thoughts out.
A good way to handle this analysis exercise it to look at the effort involved in each of the possible approaches and the impact they will have on the business. What you’re looking for here are activities that will have maximum impact and minimal effort to implement.
Of course, we would recommend using MindGenius for this and we’ve built in a range of categories you can use to analyse each of the possible outcomes you’ve identified.
Consider the planning for an annual customer conference. You start out by gathering all the possible tasks needed to prepare the conference and in our example below these have been categorised as high, medium and low. The project manager can quickly see the priorities, what should be addressed first, can assign resource to them and schedule them.
All too often, people are handed a project and dive into the scheduling of tasks and activities before taking the time to determine if their thoughts are indeed the right way forward. What you think might be right isn’t always the case and sadly, that’s why many projects fail. When this happens time and resources are wasted working on the wrong things, the output is not what was expected, work needs to start again, deadlines are missed and all that is left is a group of stressed out people.
If you’ve done all your planning in a mind map, completed your analysis and identified the tasks you intend to move forward, you can assign resources, start and end dates and task dependencies to allow you to schedule the project.
Bringing It Altogether is Projects Supercharged
MindGenius combines a front-end mind mapping project planning tool with traditional project management functions you might be more familiar with such as Kanban style task boards and Gantt charts so you can seamlessly go from project planning to management.
Combining project planning and management ensures you can move from planning and identifying the best way forward to managing the project related tasks and ensuring project delivery meets expectations. This point is key – there is no point in getting to the end of a project within time and budget if the deliverables don’t match up to expectations.
So don’t underestimate the importance of the upfront planning exercise – it’s not only designed to make sure you’re working on the right things – it also ensures there is agreement on the end deliverables and scope of the project.
Each project manager and individual project will require different levels of information at any given time, MindGenius handles this with Dynamic Views. The information in your mind map can be seen by resource, by category, priority or status or as a schedule in a Gantt chart. If you edit information in one view, it will update in all of the other views as well so whatever way you want to present your information you can do so.
For example, if you want to see if any resources are stretched and where there is capacity for anyone to take on more tasks, then simply choose resource view and all of your tasks will be displayed by the resource assigned to them. Or if you want to see the status of your most important tasks, view by priority. There is a view to suit each scenario.
Put simply – Dynamic Views is the same information displayed in multiple ways.
Take Back Control
Project managers using MindGenius report major improvements in efficiency with one stating:
“Before MindGenius we were working to a capacity of 10 projects – now we are managing a portfolio of over 70 active projects.”
The advantages of using MindGenius are endless but some of the most important are:
- You will save time
- Both you and your team are focused on the right things
- By putting you in control you reduce stress
- Basically you get the job done
Over To You – Try It
If missed deadlines, lack of control over workload, wasted time and resource are top of your list to get on top of, then try MindGenius completely Free for 14 days (no credit card required) and see the impact for yourself on your next project.
This post was made possible with the kind support of MindGenius.