The use of a planning tool is an imperative, especially when aiming to bring project success and effective task management. Mind mapping is a technique that is greatly appreciated and widely used, especially when approaching the project planning process in project management.
According to Tony Buzan (the inventor of modern mind mapping) “a mind map is a powerful graphic technique which provides a universal key to unlock the potential of the brain. It harnesses the full range of cortical skills – word, image, number, logic, rhythm, color and spatial awareness – in a single, uniquely powerful manner.” (Tony Buzan, “What is a Mind Map?)
In the 2014 Biggerplate report, project planning was declared as second most performed task with the usage of mind mapping (around 55%) while brainstorming came first place with 77% from the survey responds. This gives us clue that mind mapping usage is starting to increase in terms of conducting project planning for more than half of the active mind mapping software users.
Since mind maps are created to enhance the way you work, present, interpret and process information, you need not change your way of work with their usage.
Before going through the main points of how to use mind maps for project management, we would like to put attention on the several benefits and mind map usage when dealing with project related tasks.
When aiming to deliver timely actions in almost all business undertakings, mind mapping can help you out when trying to explore the visual pathways to project success – easily get the bird’s eye view. Here is how:
1. Facilitated Brainstorming sessions and meeting management – where you can create clear concepts of your idea generating process and conduct brainstorming meetings in a non-confusing and timely manner.
2. Handle information clutter / filter the priority project tasks – you can markup tasks in your own unique manner and filter out the most important information by using main topics and subtopics. To unify the information from a single subject and correlate data to those topics and fields you can insert relationships, assign boundaries and even insert more detailed information as links, pictures or notes.
3. Create Work Breakdown Structure and visually map the project scope – creating a WBS chart within the whiteboard space comes easy, giving you the freedom to visually map the project scope and plan activities accordingly.
4. Visually track task completion and overall project progress with Gantt charts – besides the Work Breakdown Structure, you can use a Gantt chart view of your mind map to keep track of the task completions and have an insight on the whole project deliverance.
5. Thorough action plans and reference point – whether your project comes to a hold or there appears some kind of problem, you can use mind maps and flowcharts to easily design the action plans that need to be taken for the problem to be solved.
Being a project manager is a challenging position, needing vast knowledge and skills to manage information overload and scattered work. Having in mind that organizational skills are expected in order to achieve effective outcomes of all project undertakings; mind maps, concept maps, flowcharts and organizational charts could become very convenient tools when managing chaos behind any project.
Where to begin with mind mapping for your project management efforts?
The answer to this one would be “begin from the start”. You can gather great ideas even before you start your project. As mentioned previously, mind mapping can bring much facilitation in the brainstorming sessions as well. The next step would be to determine the goals and objectives for that project and the sheer establishment of your project could be done all the way through with the help of a neat organization with mind maps.
Project files and lists can be very useful but many stakeholders and project team members could benefit better and focus their attention more if they had project information presented in a visual format. A mind map, being a very visual tool can help you get your ideas through and build a greater confidence and feedback from the stakeholders and your team.
The mind mapping software gives freedom to personalize your mind maps with different shapes, colors, backgrounds, relationship types and graphics, and also create information repositories where you can include external web links, pictures or notes. To find out more about personalizing you mind maps, you can check: Six easy ways to personalize your mind maps.
At different stages of a project and/or for different parts of the project plan, different Task Information need to be presented to the team, to the top management or any other audience. You can create a Gantt chart of your Project plan by adding tasks properties to the mind map topics (start and finish date, resources, % Complete). In a mind mapping software such as iMindQ, you can easily manage the visibility of different Task Information within the Map space.
Sometimes it is hard to differentiate which tasks, within one summary task in the Gantt Chart View, correspond to specific task within one summary task (branch) in the map space. In order to better differentiate and visualize the tasks from the map space into the Gantt Chart view, this mind mapping software enables you to colorize the task bars with just one click (Note: if you are only looking to be working in the Ganng Chart view, you may be looking for a project viewer instead of a mind mapping solution.
Time is of the essence to any project manager, so the process of creating a mind map has been simplified by having ready to use map parts. With the presentation mode of this mind mapping software you can even seamlessly present your ideas and map information by incorporating different links or attachments in your mind maps and open them in their native application with a simple click. Afterwards you can rapidly continue when you’ve left of with your presentation.
Project managers can even share the mind maps with colleagues and present their ideas with a single click.
The increase in productivity and boosted ingenuity by the non-linear way of distributing information, are just a few of the main benefits that can be experienced when using mind maps. This is why it is vital to satisfy the need of project professionals, in terms of choosing a solid tool to organize and manage project activities and generate agile ideas.
Joel Roberts is an account manager and a project management author for more than 12 years, working on Seavus’ Project Viewer – a standalone viewer for team members who only need to view and analyze project plans. Passionate by ideas and innovation management, Mind Mapping expert with numerous mind maps created and used as templates. Her articles have been featured more than a dozen project management and business websites.