Mind maps – are they useful for project managers?

Mind map

We all keep looking for more innovative and effective ways of managing our precious time. We all try to be creative, remember more and solve problems more effectively. We move towards more agile ways of managing projects. We try different online and offline tools helping us reach our goals or supporting us in everyday life. We use Pomodoro technique to manage our time, we use project planning and monitoring software to support project management. Still very often we spend a lot of time trying to analyse complex problems and come up with solutions, too much time. Are we missing something? Why not try mind mapping in project management?

Mind mapping – what is it?

Mind Mapping is a simple and effective tool supporting the work of the Project Manager. It is believed that also Agile development processes are good candidates for using mind maps. This technique allows you to organise information in a non- linear way ensuring free and natural flow of ideas and allowing easy management of those ideas.

Mind Mapping is a technique created by Tony Buzan in 1970 and it helps to resolve problems and increases the effectiveness of the analysis by allowing the left hemisphere to supervise and control the process and right hemisphere to discover and boost creativity. In the left hemisphere information is being processed in linear, logical and analytical way. Right hemisphere is responsible for creative thinking, visualisation, receiving colours, paintings, and rhythms. This is also where intuition and imagination happens. Mind map allows you to present a structure of the problem as a simple picture where the organisation of your thoughts is legible and complete.

How to use it?

Mind map uses words, lines, symbols, associations, colours, shapes, sizes and a variety of graphical forms in order to boost brains stimulation and present a full picture of given problem. All the information on the definition of the project, meeting notes or the audit report can be organised in the form of map of related branches. The project becomes the focal point of the image, from which branches spread in the form of plans, the structure of the work, costs and resources. Tree allows you to organise all the information in the system branches that you can combine and group focusing on the detail of smallest elements while not losing sight of the full picture of the project.

Where to use it?

Mind mapping can be widely used in many areas of project management. In addition to being an indispensable tool for building the structure of the project, a stimulator of creativity in brainstorming sessions, meetings management system or a way of formatting project documentation, mind mapping effectively supports the process of learning and memorising. Using Mind mapping in project management can also allow for easier absorption of information, as well as to use them more effectively.

What about PM?

One can specify the following areas in project management that can be successfully supported by mind mapping:

  • Assessment of the situation and making optimal choices
  • Rapid organisation of thoughts and project team members
  • Individual and group creativity
  • Define, analyse and solving problems
  • Redefining the objectives with respect to time, resources and changing requirements
  • Support of memorising and learning
  • Ensuring effective communication in the project team.

Good practice

Mind Mapping is successfully used as a tool to support project management by many companies worldwide including British Petroleum, Boeing, Xerox, Oracle, IBM. An interesting example of the use of mind mapping was a project in Boeing aircraft plant. Project manager decided to change complex quality procedures manual into a giant mind map. It was claimed that in this case mind mapping used as an integral tool in the identification of a quality repair projects allowed for the cost of program implementation to be almost 10 times lower than predicted. Within a month project team identified more than 500 projects around quality repair, which contributed to massive money savings.


Their main criticism of mind mapping technique in project management is that as a non- linear method it does not provide sufficient control over the time spend on tasks. Another criticism is that it simplifies project analysis to insufficient level. Not acting in response to all the needs of the project manager mind mapping rather complements other, more specialised tools that are available to the project manager. When using mind mapping one should always be mindful of the chosen management methodology and they should follow its rules. Skillful integration of mind mapping techniques in project management and the adoption of this approach by the whole project team is inevitable for it to be successful.

Use it or not?

Mind Mapping is an effective tool for supporting project management. It works best where there is a needed for multilateral analysis of issues and creative thinking of the whole team. Mind mapping supports the process of communicating complex issues and facilitates the storage of information. Despite some limitations in the use mind mapping proved its value as a tool to fully illustrate the complexity of the project in all its dimensions.

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