When the pandemic hit and most businesses went remote, the pressure turned up on their internal processes and procedures. Virtual working arrangements demand clarity. Process documentation, scorecarding, and quality assurance have always required clear communication and efficient organization. Still, project managers need more effective tools to bring clarity and efficiency to the table when working with a remote team. Mind mapping or process mapping is one of those tools. By learning to use a mind map, project management levels up to meet the demands of remote work and face-to-face.
As a tool, a mind map in project management allows for:
Let’s take a closer look at using mind maps for effective project management and focus on how these results are achieved through the use of this tool.
What Is Mind Mapping in Project Management?
In answering this question, let’s first answer what is mind mapping (or process mapping)?
Mind mapping is an organizational technique that outlines ideas, concepts, projects, or content by starting with a central idea. From there, you map your thinking outwards to show relationships and connections of the related steps, tasks, and content to this central idea. It involves organic brainstorming and visual organization to communicate ideas and address problems. A mind map organizes tasks and concepts in a memorable and digestible way.
Through full spectrum thinking, utilizing the mind map tool supports project management by improving creativity, communication, and collaboration inside and between project teams, boosting productivity and efficiency. In research conducted by Chuck Frey, utilizing mind mapping increased an executives productivity by 25% on average.
Steps of a Mind Map Project Management Design
Step 1: The Central Idea
Start with a central idea in the middle of the page. This focuses thinking for your team on the scope and purpose of the project. As a leader, you want to be thinking about the outcome of your project. That goes here.
Step 2: The Branches
Working off the central idea, create core ideas that branch out from the central idea in the middle of the page. These are all the connections that grow out from the center.
Step 3: The Stems
Working from the core ideas creates the second and third branches that stem from the core ideas.
Step 4: The Connections
Connect all relevant branches for the whole picture.
A Visual Tree of the Thinking and Planning Process
If this looks and feels more like how a tree grows than the linear thinking of lists and pages of text, you’re not wrong. Visualizing a project with a mind map is a colorful and engaging way to make it more memorable and comprehensive. According to some studies:
- Humans process visual information faster.
- It sticks in their memories better.
- They comprehend it easier.
In addition, 65% of humans are visual learners. All of this points to using a strong visual tool like a mind map for project management.
A mind map creates an engaging and workable visual diagram in the project management process that can be used by your project team to focus on the work from both a big picture standpoint and also within the smaller tasks and necessary resources related to the deliverables. It simplifies tasks and creates a web of connections throughout the process. All of this adds up to project clarity, efficiency, and effectiveness.
How to Mind Map Project Management
You really can mind map just about anything. Using a mind map for project management helps you and your team break down complex thoughts, ideas and concepts to analyze and process information and research, address problems, and come up with innovative solutions. Mind mapping visually plots ideas and organizes information. It enhances the coordination of projects with clear, understandable communication that increases team cooperation and motivation.
What project manager doesn’t want those outcomes?
Incorporating mind mapping as a tool in project coordination helps:
- Define the project scope, including prerequisites, conditions, and assumptions.
- Visualize project requirements and parameters.
- Document process workflow.
- Break down project scope into detailed tasks, required resources, and deadlines.
Here is a more specific breakdown of the business benefits of mind mapping.
Planning a brainstorming session with a mind map unlocks your team’s creative thinking through organic links up, down, and around a project. It allows your team to brainstorm more creatively and visualize innovative solutions.
Using mind mapping techniques when brainstorming helps:
- Outline the central ideas of a business project
- Create organic links that stimulate creative thought
- Nurture innovation through creative visualization
- Plot out ideas in an easy to follow format
- Communicate and present information in a colorful and engaging way
In helping you create the scope of your project and organize it into digestible tasks, concepts, and resources, the mind mapping tool also helps you manage your project team. Making mind mapping an integral part of your process documentation framework allows for an organized project structure with concise and efficient communication. It shows:
- Task delegation
- Project goals and parameters
- Deadlines on deliverables and task completion
- Reporting structure
In addition, as a leader, mind mapping aids in informed decision making by illuminating problems, collecting information and research, and visualizing outcomes.
Managing Remote Teams
Creating project clarity when managing remote teams becomes not only important but imperative. When you create a process map for workflows and procedure documentation, you up your virtual game. Giving remote project coordination, communication, and collaboration the clarity it needs.
Mind mapping can serve as a resource repository for your team to refer, track, organize, search and assess information around a central idea or project.
Remote team problem solving can be a challenge. Using mind mapping as a tool to identify, address, and find effective solutions can help take this challenge in hand. Virtual management is not going away. It’s only going to grow, and honing effective management strategies and tools will make this growth successful in the long term.
Helping your team set and maintain a clear vision includes having shared goals that guide a project and a business through both prosperous growth and difficult setbacks. Goals inspire and motivate a team to stay on track and achieve success. Mind map future goals to visualize the road ahead. By using a mind map, goals become digestible and actionable. Breaking them down into smaller, achievable increments.
Presentations and Meetings
Using a mind map in presentations leverages visual impact in information recall. By making the presentation more memorable and visually attractive, it automatically improves its value. Highlighting meeting minutes with a mind map leverages the same visual matrix. Stakeholders remember what was said, what was presented, and what was important. Suddenly, meetings and presentations are not considered a waste of time but integral parts of the planning and implementation of successful projects.
With the benefits of visualization, incorporating mind mapping into your strategic and business analysis techniques, such as balanced scorecarding, SWOT, BPM, MOST, and CATWOE, can elevate their productive use.
Quality Assurance and Problem Solving
Incorporating mind mapping into quality assurance best practices and methodologies broadens your team’s capabilities in:
- Visualizing risks
- Anticipating interruptions and potential problems
- Applying innovative solutions
- Creating a contingency plan
Helpful Software Available to Mind Map Project Management
To make a mind map, essentially all you need is a pen and paper. Still, to utilize it as a tool for project management, especially remotely, there are a number of mind mapping software products available. Several have advanced tools specifically for project managers. Some commonly used software includes:
When incorporating mind mapping into your project management consider software that:
Integrates with your content management system (CMS)
Can store enough data
Can attach files
Can change view orders
Has collaboration features
Has image management features
Contains preferences for quality visuals
Can be used on multiple platforms (or at least the one you use the most)
Make sure to test drive the software before purchase to make sure it fits your project and work style.
Success with Mind Map Project Management
Whether you are managing a team virtually, in-person or both, the demand for clarity in process documentation, strategic analysis, quality assurance, and communication makes mind map project management an invaluable production tool. Through memorable and engaging project visualization and effective organization, mind mapping ups a team’s collaboration, problem solving, creativity, and innovation. It’s a clear pathway to successful project management.