Project management with a mind map

I often found out that, regardless of the value of an idea, the actual organization of the steps that could make a real thing out of the idea, is crucial. Sometimes is more important than the idea itself. Bringing it to life is far more harder than thinking at it. And that’s one of the reasons methodologies like GTD exist, of course…

And I realized that in my series of posts about mind mapping usage, the only map that was more important than the meeting map was a project management map. As I already said, it’s very important to correctly shape your project from the very beginning, before any actual ressources assignment.

So, knowing the GTD methodology for project planning, and using my tool of choice for mind mapping, MindManager, I started to put together a mind map. As you can see in the image below (click on it to enlarge), it’s a rather simple map, with only 5 related topics, one floating topic, and only three main relationships. But of course, this is the point, to simply put together what can be a very complicated task.

Now, let’s take it step by step:

1. Altitude: David Allen, in his book, Getting Things Done, found a way to put all your projects in perspective, and that was the “altitude” concept. There are many measurement units for this (10.000 feets, or 5000 meters) but that’s not quite the point here. You can always read the book, if you want to find out more details, and, to be honest, I strongly encourage you to do it. The point is to start from the beginning with an altitude appreciation of the current project

  • Current Projects: what you do in your day to day activities
  • Areas of responsabilities: your main roles as a professional or social person
  • One or Two Years Goals: self-explanatory
  • Three To Five Years Goals: also, self-explanatory
  • Life: that should keep all your “main” or life-long projects

It’a a very good habit to clearly state in each of your mind map projects the altitude of the project. It will have a very subtle yet enlightening influence on the rest of the project’s steps.

2. Why?: This is the most important question that you will always have to ask about your project. As simple – and almost dumb – this may seem, it’s the cornerstone of a project. If you don’t have a clear answer to that, well, you don’t really have a project, but a problem. Or a bunch of problems. Identify the problem(s), find out why you have to do in order to solve them, and then clearly describe all your questions and answers. This stage will naturally let your project grow or shrink, depending of the accuracy of the answers.

3. How?: How the outcome will look like? What exactly this project will do to yourself, or to the others? It’s very important to acknowledge from this early stage that the project will have an outcome, but an impact too. The subtle difference is that the impact may raise other problems, and it will make you recursively apply the whole process, until you clarify the final desired result. Hence, the first relationship on our mind map.

4. Brainstorm: It’s only after answering the first two questions: why? and how? that you can actually start to brainstorm about the project. Brainstorming is often seen as a playground, a place for freedom of ideas and opportunities. I agree, and placing this playground on a clear foundation will make it even funnier. At the brainstorming stage you will sketch ideas regardless of their actual value, only for trying to find as many ways of doing as you can imagine. And, because the method can change the outcome, you can balance back and forth from this topic to the How? topic, until every method you brainstorm about have a clear outcome. Hence, the second relationship on our mind map.

5. Organize: You know why you’re doing your project, you know what the outcome will look like, and have a reasonnable number of methods for actually doing it, from your brainstorming session. Now it’s time to put the pieces together. A task it’s the most isolated action that you can “slice” from the whole project. It’s like an atom. You can’t make it smaller than that. This step is also extremely important. If you find that you have a task that is formed by two or more atomics task, you’ll son start to feel lost and frustrated. Try to carefully isolate your “Next Actions” and do that for as long as it takes, because, believe it or not, this is the place where most of the projects are actually done.

And because you will decide here what are the actual methods that you’ll use, you will frequently digg into the Brainstorm topic, which also explains our third relationship on our mind map.

6. Do: All the projects are just a series of next actions. So, in the “Do” topic, you’ll just list your completion percent for each task in order to always have a sharper look at the stage of the project. It’s the barometer of your project completion.

Of course, each of the topics in the mind map have some “helper sub-topics” but I think most of them are self-explanatory.

The map in MindManager format is available for a free download here: [download#5] .

If you don’t have MindManager, you can download a free viewer from here. But if you really want to have the real stuff, you can download a 30 days trial version, start mastering it, and then take a chance in our contest. We do have a free license for the most innovative use of MindManager. Submissions ends on March 10th, so hurry up!

Also, feel free to comment about this mind map usage in your day to day activities, I’m sure there are a lot of topics uncovered, as well as other interesting viewpoints that will make a great contribution.

[tags]GTD, project management, mind map[/tags]

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