Project Management with Mind Maps
Have you ever planned a project or brainstormed an idea? It takes a lot of effort to manage the collected information in a way you can easily traverse through.
On occasions you find yourself occupied with a lot of questions and confusion in scenarios such as
- You have a lot of details to get started with but no clear picture of how it all fits together
- You are prepared with the plan but find it difficult to explain to team members or co-workers or even to your boss
- You are facing difficulty in tracking and mapping all the comments and discussions with the requirements
This is where mind maps can emerge as your savior.
Mind mapping is an effective project management technique to help visualize project features, to plan effectively and to enhance creative problem solving abilities.
Consider it as an empty canvas to draw your ideas in a structured manner centered on one single concept.
A “good” mind map shows the complete structure of the project with all the relevant details and emphasis set properly on all important aspects. It helps you break a consolidated idea in smaller pieces that makes it much easier to plan and manage.
Mind maps are often used to generate, visualize, organize and showcase anything related to personal or business tasks such as financial plan, travel plan, scoping, management processes, sales processes, etc.
Basic guidelines of a mind map
- Start with one topic
- All the ideas must be connected to the center topic
- The ideas can further delve into sub ideas in any level of hierarchy, resembling with a tree that has multiple branches
- Use images, symbols and icons to emphasize
- Use color to distinguish ideas
- Have connections, associations, dependencies in your map wherever required
Good rule(s) of thumb
- Do not use lengthy texts to describe an idea. Try to use phrases or short words. This makes map more focused and clear. All the details could go into notes
- Use simple language that is easy to understand
- Don’t add extra complexities such as excessive images, icons, colors, connections that makes the map difficult to follow for others
Mind maps could easily be drawn on a piece of paper or on a board. Also, there are many tools available to help in creating quality maps quickly like Bubbl.us, Mindmeister, iMindMap, Mindjet and MindGenuis. A complete list of tools is available here.
Practical applications and benefits
Mind maps come very handy in brainstorming requirements and organizing ideas.
They are an efficient way to break large plan into small manageable chunks.
- List all your ideas centered on the topic initially, with no established relations or connections. Any feature that could add any value to the central idea, put them on map
- Dig deep with each feature individually and list all functionalities that could be covered
- Set priorities by adding numbering
- Add icons, colors and images to uniquely identify features
All this helps in keeping track of all the requirements and help in preparing a quality scope for the project.
Mind mapping promotes effective planning without getting overwhelmed with the project requirements and complexities.
- Identify dependencies or associations or connections between all the features of the project
- List probable assumptions and risk factors either for every feature or for the overall project
- Plan development or execution of project in Milestones/Iterations by identifying the priorities, complexities and efforts. This will help attain a broader picture on overall aspects and set detailed focus
- Summarize all the information, revisions, discussions as “Notes” in the mind map against each module to keep a better track of everything
3. Decision Making
Well laid plans always help in taking better decisions.
It is always better to take decisions from a well-developed plan that can be visualized. The same decisions could probably be achieved in traditional manner using excel or word document with detailed description as well, but visuals always tend to make more impact than just plain text!
Decision trees could be easily plotted with mind maps to map all the scenarios, risks, complexities and connections and then decide the best way to go ahead.
4. Problem Solving
Mind mapping is a way to promote creative thinking.
It can bring following benefits in improving problem solving abilities
- Mind maps allow quick reviews. As all the details are laid visually, it becomes easy to follow
- It can act as mnemonics to help you remember the short phrases and words
5. Communicating details to your stakeholders
Visuals always aid in providing better explanation and bringing clarity in thought process.
With mind maps, it becomes very easy to share the on-going thoughts with all the involved stakeholders
- The discussions could be saved to act as an important reference material at later stages
- They minimize the chances of lack of clarity or misunderstanding which could save a good deal of time and arguments at later stages
6. Team co-ordination and discussion
Mind maps save a plenty of time in explanation. The details are well laid which makes it easier for individuals to understand and relate with the project better. It can provide
- Complete documentation tracked at the same place
- Clear representation of hierarchies and associations/dependencies
- Recorded details, notes, references throughout the project life-cycle
These were just a few of the many possible applications of mind maps. If you do any kind of research, get stuck with a problem, want to brainstorm on any topic, need to prepare a plan, try Mind Maps. You’ll love using them!
Check out these mind map galleries and resources to learn more about mind maps
- Learning Fundamentals — mind mapping tricks and trips, particularly for paper
- About mind map — basics about mind maps
- Mind map strategies — blog about mind maps
- Mind-Mapping.Org — one of the most extensive pool for mind map resources, blogs and details
- Mappio — contains thousands of mind maps
- 99 mind mapping resources, tools and tips — get a quick glance of all the resources, tools and tips