Organizations are constantly on the lookout for effective ways of managing their time and money. In project management, we're tasked with coordinating teams, keeping track of intricate workflows and optimising communication.
To do this, we use many different tools, apps, and websites. We use the Pomodoro technique
for time management, Basecamp for managing projects, and Kanban to help us uncover workflow problems. But we want more.
One business management tool that is widely used across different industries is the mind map. Commonly used to spark creativity and expand on ideas, it's claimed that Da Vinci used a method of mind mapping in his note-taking. This allowed him to see things which most people could not.
Radiant thinking has been used throughout history for learning, brainstorming and problem solving by everyone from engineers to psychologists. These days, it has become an essential tool in the arsenal of many businesses.
Today, the mind map has been popularised by Tony Buzan, who says it helps people to "present a structure of the problem as a simpler picture". But despite its many applications, is there any place for it in project management?
Project managers already use a wide range of tools to coordinate workflows. Can there be a better way to keep track of the moving parts of the project? A better way to uncover any hidden roadblocks and opportunities?
Critics of mind mapping in project management say its non-linear design over-simplifies project analysis. How true is this?
Mind mapping for Project Management
Project management involves the input and co-operation of different people across teams, and sometimes multiple sites. To ensure project success, it is vital that all the information generated is kept well-organized.
As a visual means of organization, mind maps can be used to make complex project scenarios clearer. This enables project managers to see a full overview of the project, making mind maps an excellent tool for creating work breakdown structures (WBS). In project management, the use of mind mapping software helps to bring all the parts of the project together into one interface.
In the modern mind mapping industry, you can find both stand-alone software options and mobile apps. There are software options that you can use online and offline, ones that have import and export options, ones that allow collaboration, and much more.
Many popular mind map tools also have project management capabilities built in. Whether it's Mindmap, Mindjet, Xmind, Mindnode, here are five ways they can be used in project management.
1) Defining the project
Mind mapping software can be used to create a WBS, which will help you to define a clear objective for your projects. By defining projects this way, the goals for the project can be identified and listed easily. This provides a point of focus for the team while the project is carried out.
2) Project planning
With the project defined and objectives identified, mind mapping enables managers to visualise the front-end of the project. Maps are generally considered an efficient way to display data for clearer understanding, therefore using a mind map to plan can help you reduce information overload.
In the project planning phase, you'd have to list the tasks that need to be done, figure out dependencies, and deduce how long each task will take. With a mind mapping software, all this can be done faster and more accurately.
3) Defining milestones
With a plan in place, your mind mapping software of choice can be used to define project milestones
and track the progress of key elements of the project. In some programs, you can append "percentage complete" icons to tasks on the map. This provides a visual cue that allows you to monitor and evaluate your progress using established milestones.
4) Defining roles and responsibilities
Mind mapping software can also be used to monitor the resources and team members assigned to each task. By defining team roles
like this, you can create sections (branches) on the map to summarise the responsibilities of individual team members. The ability to create hierarchical nodes will also allow you to organize the project team more efficiently, and deploy resources strategically.
With the planning and WBS done, the mind mapping software can be converted to a Gantt chart for effective scheduling. When choosing a mind mapping software for project management, look for one with export functionality. With some software, the Gantt view is integrated within the mind mapping software, allowing users to switch easily between project mode and Gantt view.
We know that project management
is a specialisation that's already full of different models and methods. However, being able to see the full picture of a project, and all its requirements, is one of the many challenges that project leads face at the start of a project. Because they act like a visual "executive summary," mind maps can communicate an essential overview of your project, and allow project managers to plan the most efficient path to completion.
Whether you use a mind map as a memory aid, a brainstorming tool, or to plan your next project, it's guaranteed to significantly increase your productivity. So, as a powerful yet flexible way of managing projects, mind maps do
have a place in project management.
What's your favourite mind mapping software? Which of its features helps you the most?