Mind maps – are they useful for project managers?
Mind mapping, a non-linear, creative tool developed by Tony Buzan, enhances project management by aiding in organizing ideas, enhancing creativity, and illustrating project complexities effectively.
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 to help us reach our goals or support us daily. We use the Pomodoro technique to manage our time and project planning and monitoring software to support project management. Still, very often, we spend much 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 Agile development processes are good candidates for using mind maps. This technique allows you to organise information in a non-linear way, ensuring the free and natural flow of ideas and enabling 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 the right hemisphere to discover and boost creativity. In the left hemisphere, information is processed in linear, logical and analytical ways. The right hemisphere is responsible for creative thinking, visualisation, receiving colours, paintings, and rhythms. This is also where intuition and imagination happen. A 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 various graphical forms to boost brain stimulation and present a complete picture of a given problem. All the information on the definition of the project, meeting notes or the audit report can be organised in the form of a 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. The tree allows you to organise all the information in the system branches that you can combine and group, focusing on the details of the smallest elements while not losing sight of the complete 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 systems 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 and 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 solve problems
Redefining the objectives concerning time, resources and changing requirements
Support of memorising and learning
Ensuring effective communication in the project team.
Mind Mapping is successfully used to support project management by many companies worldwide, including British Petroleum, Boeing, Xerox, Oracle, and IBM. An interesting example of mind mapping was a project in the Boeing aircraft plant. The project manager changed the complex quality procedures manual into a giant mind map. It was claimed that in this case, mind mapping used as an integral tool in identifying quality repair projects allowed the cost of program implementation to be almost 10 times lower than predicted. Within a month, the project team identified more than 500 quality repair projects, contributing to massive money savings.
Their main criticism of the mind mapping technique in project management is that, as a non-linear method, it does not provide sufficient control over the time spent on tasks. Another criticism is that it simplifies project analysis to an insufficient level. Not acting in response to the project manager’s needs, mind mapping rather complements other, more specialised tools 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. Skilful integration of mind mapping techniques in project management and adopting this approach by the whole project team is inevitable for success.
Use it or not?
Mind Mapping is an effective tool for supporting project management. It works best where there is a need for multilateral analysis of issues and creative thinking of the whole team. Mind mapping endorses the process of communicating complex issues and facilitates information storage. Despite some limitations in its use, mind mapping proved its value as a tool to fully illustrate the project’s complexity in all its dimensions.
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