Friday, December 19th, 2008

Planning Projects using Mind Maps

Mind Maps are a great tool for planning and managing projects.

Watch this video now to find out how to plan your projects and how to use those project plans for scope management, communicating project goals, and getting the buy-in of all stakeholders:

The earlier video on managing your to-do lists using mind maps introduced you to the basic concepts of organizing your requirements using mind mapping. Now we will extend that to look at project planning specifics.

But first, let’s ask the question, “What’s wrong with the age-old standard project management packages like MS Project and Merlin (

Well, they certainly do give you good tools to manage your projects, but they really have a strong tendency to get people focusing on the minute task levels of projects far too early in the inception phases of a project.

This means that you can easily lose sight of the main objectives of the project, or get so stuck in the details that you forget some important tasks or objectives.

But the planning for a successful project begins before that. There is a whole inception phase of the project where the relevant information is collected together and organized so that you have a clear understanding of the scope, time, cost, quality, resources, communications, risks and of course stakeholder requirements for the project.

Often this information is gathered as large specification documents which are hard to navigate around and understand the requirements, but all of these areas can benefit from the use of Mind Mapping, and you can create Mind Maps to represent each knowledge area, and have branches for the details and hyperlinks to other documents and resources where required.

As you start a project, you need to define what the major objectives are, and each one of these objectives will become a first level branch of the Mind Map, then for projects of any reasonable size these objectives get further broken down into sub-objectives that contribute to the achievement of the major objectives, or the major areas of work contributing to the overall objectives. So these become the second level branches. Finally it is broken down into actual tasks that must be performed, which are the leaf branches on your Mind Map.

Obviously this is flexible and you only use as many levels as necessary for your project, and for a large project, it may require more levels.

When you get down to the task level, you may want to assign resources to the tasks. This is something you can do in the Platinum edition of NovaMind. The video shows you how to create and assign resources to the branches. Of course the resources usually refer to people, but can also refer to other resources which have a limited availability, like vehicles and meeting rooms.

The video also shows you how to assign task information to the branches, including priorities, percentage complete, start and finish date and duration.

You can see how easy it is to structure your project into objectives and then go right down to the task and resource level using Mind Maps. This means that you can use brainstorming techniques to come up with the right ideas and objectives. The techniques used for brainstorming are covered in a different video.

As you go through the exercise, you will fully explore the options for the project in much more breadth and depth than what you could cover in a requirements document. Then you can do the assessment of the ideas and objectives, and make sure that the ones you want are retained, and then look at the budget and time constraints etc, and go through a scoping exercise.

Mind Maps are a great way to manage project scope because you can remove a branch or sub-branch without impacting the other branches.

This makes it easy to make sure that there is nothing forgotten in the early planning and scoping part of the project, as well as being a great tool for presenting the project to all the stakeholders.

If you are trying to get funding for a project, it makes it much easier when the project plan is drawn out as a Mind Map. Everyone can see what the objectives are for the project, how they are going to be achieved, the tasks that are required to achieve the outcomes, as well as the resources that are required. When the project sponsors see in the Mind Map all the things that need to be done to achieve their objectives, they will understand the basis for the project costs, and can make much better informed decisions on scoping and overall outcomes. This means that it is much more likely that they will accept the costings you have provided because they can see where their money is going - everyone can see clearly what the objectives are, how they are going to be achieved, and what resources are going to be required. They may also decide to take some of the main objective branches and move them to a new phase in the project so that it can be done properly, rather than trying to fit it in to an unreasonable timeframe.

But what if you need to bring someone up to speed on a project that is already underway?

Mind Maps are very useful in briefing new team members on the project. When a new team member is assigned to the project, the Mind Maps will give them a picture of the overall project goals, updating them very quickly. The Mind Maps give a graphical overview of the tasks, how they relate to each other and their importance and impact in the greater scheme of things.

The new team member can then be introduced to their individual role in the project and will be able to quickly see what their responsibilities are and how these responsibilities relate to the overall project, giving them a better understanding of what and how they will contribute to the team and the project. Often this will lead to them volunteering their skills for tasks you may not have assigned them to, because they understand that they can make a strong contribution to the project in that area.

You very quickly have their “buy-in” on the project, whether they are coming in at the start of the project or part way through. They can see exactly where they fit in, why they are needed and how they can contribute.

Now of course during the running of your project, you would use a dedicated project management package like MS Project or Merlin to handle the detailed running of the project, and you can transfer your project information to Merlin, or to any project management package that reads the MS Project XML file format (which is just about all the project management software currently available).

So as you can see, NovaMind is a great tool particularly for the inception phases of projects.

Watch the video now to hear about using Mind Maps for brainstorming requirements; scoping; time, cost and quality management, assigning resources, communicating project requirements, and managing risks. When you use Mind Mapping in this way, you will be able to manage the scope of projects better, make sure that no requirements are left out, have better communication with the stakeholders and sponsors, and have better buy in from your staff working on the project.

All these things add up to better managed and more successful projects.

About Mind Mapping

Mind Maps are diagrams that work the way people think -- they organize the information in the same way our brains organize information. They make it easy to understand, remember, and communicate complex information.

Our brains like thinking in pictures. The smooth curves and colorful pictures used in Mind Mapping create powerful images for your brain to remember.Mind Maps cater to both logical left brain thinking and pictorial right brain thinking at the same time, which makes them a very good way of storing and recalling information, presenting things to other people, and brainstorming new ideas.

Contact Profile

NovaMind Mind Mapping Software

NovaMind has been the top Mind Mapping program available on Mac computers for the last 6 years, and has been available for Windows for over two years. It is rapidly gaining recognition for its many unique and innovative features and ease of use. NovaMind makes Mind Mapping intuitive and fun.

For more information about NovaMind, please visit or e-mail Gideon King at gideon(at)

Gideon King
P: 07 3806 3038


Watch this video now to find out how to plan your projects and how to use those project plans for scope management, communicating project goals, and getting the buy-in of all stakeholders.


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