Mind-Map Your Way to Successful Projects

Could something as simple as a mind map help you manage something as complex as a project?

What's a mind map? I'll save you a trip to Wikipedia and tell you that it says, "A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and writing."

What that leaves out is that a mind map arranges information much the way that the mind itself does, thus making the information easier to grasp and retain. There is value in that aspect of mind maps, which project managers can tap using mind-map software.

When mind-map software is combined with traditional project plans, the benefits can include:

* Providing a more visual presentation of the details of project tasks. Because complex ideas and processes are presented in a way that is visually easy to understand, team members are better able to take action on ideas.

* Giving team members a tool that can be used individually or collaboratively.

* Getting the big picture of the project and at the same time the ability to dig down to the smallest detail of the work breakdown structure.

* Seeing information in a highly intuitive way.

Project managers are using mind-map software for all types and sizes of projects. At a recent PMI meeting, the keynote speaker spoke about his project team having only a couple of weeks to prepare a proposal for a government contract. By using mind-map software, the team was able to complete the plan on time, simply because the mind map allowed for maximum team collaboration and effective communication.

Other project teams use mind-map software to create the work breakdown structure for the project, to brainstorm project ideas in the early stages of planning, to map deliverables to task groups, to map resources to tasks, to document user requirements, to communicate project status, to manage suppliers, to identify risks -- really, just about anything you can think of.

Open your mind to the possibilities that mind maps can have for you. It just might blow you away.

Michelle LaBrosse , PMP, is the founder and CEO of Cheetah Learning and author of the books Cheetah Negotiations and Cheetah Project Management.

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