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Mind Mapping for Project Management (MP4PM): An Introduction

By: Markus Kopko, Creator of MP4PM:

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An in-depth look at how to use mind mapping in accordance with the PMBoK Guide® Knowledge Areas and Processes and Process Groups

Let’s start with a short excursion into the history of project management.

We have known and used project management for centuries. Many historians date the beginnings of the craft to the time of the Egyptian pyramid construction. Others see the beginnings even earlier. In any case, project management has developed over the centuries. Project management has had to cope with the ever-increasing complexity of modern society.

Around the middle of the 20th century, the US Armed Forces, with NASA leading the way, were the driving force in the development of project management methodology.

A little later, large engineering and construction companies began using the principles and tools of project management to manage large budgets and time-controlled projects.

During this time, the Project Management Institute (PMI) was founded, which shortly thereafter published “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)” that outlines best practices of the product management methodology. The PMBOK® Guide quickly became a globally recognized and applied ANSI standard.

With this new series titled “MP4PM”, we will be presenting a mind mapping (and especially MindManager) based framework, which is 100% aligned to the Knowledge Areas and the Project Management processes as described in the PMBoK Guide.

But first, let’s looks at why mind mapping is a great tool for managing information in general, and how it’s helpful in project management specifically.

Mind mapping is a method for visualizing ideas and information. Just as geographical maps help people to see where they are going and help them to identify and avoid obstacles, mind maps allow people to interpret ideas, connect and manage information to identify dependencies, connections, risks and much more.

The advantages and benefits of mind mapping

Mind mapping is a powerful technique, and the advantages are many;

  • The relative importance of each idea is clearly indicated by how near it is to the center, which clearly features the main idea.
  • The links between key concepts will be immediately obvious from their proximity and connection to one another. The brain works primarily with key concepts that it links and integrates. Mind maps work in the same way, meaning that recall and review will be faster and more effective.
  • The nature of the mind map structure allows for the easy addition of new information.
  • Each mind map has its own unique pattern, which further aids recall.
  • The open-ended nature of the mind map is a great aid to creativity, allowing the brain to make new and exciting connections with ease.

With practice, you’ll find that mind maps help you to be your best in every thinking situation. Here’s an overview of the benefits of mind mapping as they relate to various use cases:

When you look at these use cases and benefits, you might think: “Well, there are many of them in project management too, aren’t there?” And the answer is: YES!

Since project management is all about collecting, managing and communicating information, mind mapping can be perfectly used for these tasks. But then you might think “Well, but all this paperwork … and if it is written down, how can you reorganize the information if necessary?” (and that will be it, right?).

That’s where mind mapping software comes into to play. These are tools that are based on the mind mapping principles. Using such mind mapping tools – like the MindManager – has many benefits, as outlined in the next section.

Why you should use a professional mind mapping software

The benefits of mind mapping software are many, and varied depending on your needs and priorities. In general, they fall into the following six categories:

1. They let people work the way they think

With mind mapping software,` you can brainstorm and capture ideas in free form, and then add structure and depth. Drag-and-drop editing and markers let you apply order, connect ideas, and group concepts into themes. Built-in templates often make it easy to bring clarity to important projects, and completed maps give you a more effective way to communicate.

2. They reduce information overload

Mind mapping software lets you organize ideas and information in a single view so you can see connections and draw conclusions quickly. It’s easy to assemble content-rich information maps with attachments and links that let you process information without having to jump between different apps and browsers. You maybe even can even import tasks, email, and contacts from Microsoft Outlook to mind maps to better organize your work life.

3. They help structure business, strategic and project plans

Mind mapping software provides deep capabilities for organizing information to drive critical business processes and decision-making. More advanced features can include guided brainstorming tools, 2×2 analysis views, budgeting and forecasting tools, and numerous project management features that we’ll talk more about later.

4. They improve communication

Mind mapping’s visual format lets you show the big picture and then drill down to display details as needed, all in a single view. Improve meetings by quickly capturing discussion notes and follow-up action items in context. Use priority markers, symbols, and embedded images to highlight the most important points.

5. They work with your existing tools

Mind mapping software is integrated with Microsoft and Apple productivity apps, including MS Word, MS PowerPoint, MS Excel, MS Outlook, MS Project, and Apple Keynote and Pages. Individuals can map out their work, and then publish final reports and proposals in the most appropriate format.

6. They can be used across the organization

Mind mapping software may have an enterprise version which extends the value offering integration with Microsoft SharePoint to enable collective information management and collaboration. With the Enterprise version people across the organization can use this
intuitive visual framework to capture and organize information, then share editable maps so teams can solve problems, prioritize strategies, plan projects, and process information together.

6 benefits of mind mapping for project management

After looking at the mind mapping benefits in general and the advantages of using purpose-built software, we will know focus on the specific benefits of using the combination of them for project management.

Successful project management depends on effective management of expectations and commitments. Mind mapping methodology and tools help you keep teams in alignment on the decisions and tradeoffs that determine if a project will meet goals and deadlines. Create a blueprint for your project by defining goals, prioritizing issues, capturing stakeholder input, and validating requirements:

1. Visualize goals

Clearly defining goals and prioritizing issues means getting input—and more importantly, buy-in—from the entire team. Mind maps give project teams a virtual whiteboard for brainstorming where every idea and concern can be surfaced and cataloged. Mind maps help teams think visually so they can quickly lay out deliverables and identify any gaps in the plan.

2. Validate requirements

Adequately validating requirements is one of the first steps to ensuring project success. Quickly capture stakeholder input in a format that encourages participation. Verify decisions by visually ordering and reordering topics, drilling down to review details, and using priority markers to provoke essential trade-off discussions.

3. Manage resources

Use mind maps to create detailed process maps to intelligently allocate resources and identify dependencies. Mind maps help everyone involved see the big picture and all the details in context. And if needed, you can export straight to Microsoft Project and other MS Office products, or the highly flexible HTML5 format (which can be opened by any web browser!)

4. Adjust and optimize

Quickly make adjustments when schedules and resources change. The task roll-up feature shows the overall impact of changes to assignments and dependencies so that everyone can understand (and respond to) the implications of schedules and budgets. Integrated Gantt charts provide a timeline view of your schedule.

5. Agree on budgets

Create and manage project budgets in the project mind map alongside priorities and schedules—all in one place. Most professional tools have a feature to quickly set up formulas throughout your map and use the formula editor to add more sophisticated calculations. Conduct “what if” analyses by dragging topics into or out of the formula’s range to immediately adjust the calculations.

6. Be prepared

Most professional mind mapping tools (like MindManager) help you get started faster with project map templates and pre-built map topics for creating project charters, plans, status, and timelines.

Once you create a project, you can save your working mind map as a custom template to guide future work, reducing the time needed to start your next project.

Introducing the “MP4PM – Mind Mapping for Project Management” framework

Introducing MP4PM - 1

Consequently, this is exactly what we want to provide with our “MP4PM – Mind Mapping for Project Management” initiative, which is 100% aligned to the PMBoK® Guide and covers all of the project management processes and all their related ITTOs (Inputs; Tools & Techniques; Outputs).

Using this framework means that you do not need to build up project templates on your own, but instead you can use them out of the box and add customizations related to your own projects and organization. Tailoring the PMBoK® Guide processes for your specific project needs – which is a key task while applying the PMBoK Guide in your daily project efforts and will become even more important with the upcoming next edition of the PMBoK Guide – becomes very easy with mind maps, even if your company does not rely on PMI’s project management philosophy.

Introducing MP4PM - 2What is “MP4PM”?

In the text above I have explained why I think that mind mapping is beneficial for project management in general.

I am convinced that mind Mapping could be a big help in making the project managers daily work easier and more efficient.

A survey by mind mapping expert Chuck Frey, for instance, mind mapping software users believe their productivity has increased on average by 25%.

Mind mapping is being used across organizations to:

  • Increase productivity;
  • Enhance meetings;
  • Simplify request for proposals (RFP);
  • Overview knowledge management;
  • Optimize project management;
  • Improve collaboration and communication;
  • And much more.

Additionally, I do believe that tool-supported mind mapping could be used to support all the PMBoK Guide Processes and ITTO’s in a perfect way. And this is exactly what we want to realize with “MP4PM – Mind Mapping for Project Management”.
The picture in the header of this article shows a sample process map like we will have for each of the 49 PMBoK Guide processes within “MP4PM”.

This is the first post in an article series. In each of the upcoming articles, we will introduce one of the ten knowledge areas out of the PMBoK Guide, which include:

  1. Project Integration Management
  2. Project Scope Management
  3. Project Schedule Management
  4. Project Cost Management
  5. Project Quality Management
  6. Project Resource Management
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
  9. Project Procurement Management
  10. Project Stakeholder Management.

For each knowledge area, we will show you a sample process out of these Knowledge Areas, and demonstrate how MP4PM is conducted and how it will help you.

Introducing MP4PM - 3The features of “MP4PM”

When creating “MP4PM” we had some main features in mind that should support all the maps and tools you use. All of these features are essential in the context of daily project management practice.

In the following articles, we will introduce the first few of these features to you; more will follow in future articles:

  • Idea file: An “MP4PM” mind map is an ideal place to collect and store ideas related to your projects. Better yet, you will maintain a separate mind map as your master idea file.
  • Project objectives: You will use an “MP4PM” mind map to list project objective, and keep them close at hand throughout the project to help you stay focused on its outcome.
  • Milestones: You will define project milestones and track the progress of key elements of the project your “MP4PM project dashboard map”.
  • Questions: An “MP4PM” map is an excellent place to create a list of all of the questions you have about the scope of the project.

We will go one step further and provide you with not only processes and ITTOs shown in the PMBoK Guide, but also with additional maps and tools that are helpful for your project management.

One example is the “Know Your Sponsor” map, as shown below. You can access an interactive online version of this map by click the image.

Introducing MP4PM - 4

About the Author:

Markus Kopko jas more than 20 years of management and leadership experience, including more than 18 years in project and program management. He has proven the success of project management in the areas of IT services and outsourcing, and has led direct reporting teams of more than 60 management and non-management resources and project teams involving contractors, vendors, executives and external consultants.

One of his key goals and motivations is to implement the PMI project management philosophy and a PMI-based project management methodology in his company and daily work. He created MP4PM in order to pass this enthusiasm on to you.

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