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Mind mapping and the project plan

by Tris Hussey on October 9th, 2006

Continuing the mind mapping series here, Scot took my suggestion for using MindManager to take meeting notes to heart and tried it this weekend, with great results it seems.  Next up on my list was project planning.

How many of you have stared at an empty MS Project plan and not really known where to start?  You know, but you don’t know what comes first or second.  Not only that, Project isn’t really known for being the most friendly app in town.  I still can’t really make it work the way I want to.  Regardless this is where mind mapping comes in.  One of the very handy features of MindManager (MM) is the ability to import and export maps to and from Project.  Yeah that’s cool.

Let’s start with the map to project plan part.  First just figure out what has to be done.  Maybe even use MM’s brainstorming feature for this.  Don’t worry about order or dependencies, think about tasks.  Just get them all down.

Now, look at those tasks and group them.  What goes where.  Order them by using topics and sub-topics.  Want to get fancy?  Sure you can add information about the tasks.  Who and when and such, no problem.  Hey even put little priority makers in there if it helps.  Now, if you need to have it in MS Project, like you don’t feel warm and fuzzy unless you can see the Gantt chart, fine, just export the map to MS Project.  Tweak as you need to, and viola you’re mapping your project.

Now here’s the other great thing about MM and MS Project, you can import the project file into MM.  Why is this cool?  Because MM has a free viewer and Project doesn’t.  Want to get feedback from the team?  Make it a map and get your feedback.  One hint that I picked up recently, project plans with a lot of dependencies, make really ugly maps.  The dependencies become relationship arrows (which makes sense), but the end result can be a bit more like abstract art than a usable map.  So, you might want to create the map without the dependencies from Project, or just delete them.

I have used this on several occasions with great success.  MS Project, is for one kind of thinker and MM seems to mesh with lots of different kinds of thinkers.  I found that people got the project plan very quickly with the map and were able to give feedback.

Next up is my real favourite … mind maps to plan out documents.

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