Mind maps are an invaluable tool when it comes to project planning. They foster a free flow of ideas, which is ideal for creative brainstormings; they structure information visually and thus provide a great overview of all project-related data; If you’re using MindMeister, your mind maps are also collaborative, which means you can share them with colleagues and edit them together in real-time; maps can even be turned into other formats such as slideshows, Word documents or agile project boards. Below you’ll find a number of great examples of how mind maps can help you with all your project planning needs:
1. Brainstorming Project Ideas
Brainstorming in online mind maps has been found to be even more effective than traditional, in-person brainstorming sessions. In fact, using online mind maps can increase your creative output by about 50% (read more about this in our article about online brainstorming with mind maps!). So if you want to develop or flesh out your next great idea, here’s how to get started:
- Open a blank mind map in MindMeister and write your idea in the center of the map.
- Add 3 to 6 first-level topics (branches) around the center with significant keywords.
- Explore the details of your idea by adding child topics to the branches.
- Important: Let your thoughts flow freely and don’t censor your ideas. Don’t interrupt your brainstorming until you’re satisfied with the result or have run out of ideas.
Take a look at the sample mind map below:
2. Refine and Present Your Project Idea
After your initial brainstorming, chances are you will be left with a bit of a mess. Now’s the time to comb through the ideas and thoughts you’ve collected in your map, delete the useless ones, and reorder the good ones to create a meaningful structure.
- Remove topics with inapplicable ideas.
- Move topics around to create a proper structure for your map.
- Add explanations and details to your ideas in the form of notes, links, images and files.
- Add emphasis to topics by choosing appropriate styles and icons.
Once you’ve mapped out your vision, you’ll probably want to present it to your team, your superiors or your client. The best way to do this is by using MindMeister’s built-in presentation mode to turn the mind map into a dynamic slideshow.
- Open presentation mode and create slides for the topics in your map.
- Add appropriate transitions to the slides.
- Present your idea to the decision makers.
3. Perform a Benefit-Cost Analysis
A benefit-cost analysis helps you decide whether it’s really a good idea to undertake the project you’ve been planning. To perform a benefit-cost-analysis in a mind map:
- Open a blank mind map in MindMeister.
- Create one branch for your project objectives.
- Create one branch for estimated resources required to perform the project.
- Create a third branch for anticipated benefits.
- Calculate the project’s net present value (=excess of project’s expected benefits over its estimated costs in monetary terms) and use the result to decide whether you should go ahead with the project.
4. Outline Your Project Plan
While the actual writing process is better done in a text document, mind maps are a fantastic format for outlining the chapters and contents of your project plan. Mind maps not only visualize your entire project plan on a single page, they also offer space for notes, links and comments. You can even attach whole files to the topics in your mind maps. To get started…
- Open a blank mind map to create an outline for your project plan (or use the mind map template below as a starting point).
- Create first-level topics for what will later become the various chapters of your plan (e.g. “Reasons for undertaking this project”, “Intended results”, “Roles and responsibilities”, etc.).
- Add details to each first-level topic in the form of child topics. Try to stick to individual keywords and short phrases so as to not clutter up your map. You can add longer explanations in the form of notes.
- Bring a logical order into your topics, then export the finished outline as a Word document.
- Use this new text document for the actual writing process.
- Have your project plan reviewed and signed off by the decision makers.
Tip: Re-use this mind map as a project roadmap by simplifying it and sharing it with your project team and relevant stakeholders. A project roadmap is a great tool to quickly review your goals and milestones and ensure you’re still on schedule. Of course, you can easily update the roadmap throughout the project’s lifetime if your priorities change or you need to refine your previous estimates.
5. Create a Project Stakeholders List
Project stakeholders are entities that have an interest in a given project. Compiling a list of your stakeholders will help you decide if and when you should involve them in decisions and help you determine the scope of the project.
- Open a blank mind map and create one branch for “internal” stakeholders (i.e. people inside your organization) and one for “external” stakeholders. (Or simply clone the template we’ve prepared below).
- Add child-topics representing the various departments and groups involved in the project, such as team members, end users, upper management, suppliers etc.
- Divide these categories and groups further until you arrive at the actual names of people. Be sure to add their contact information!
- Share your mind map with co-workers who could potentially know of other important parties to add to the list.
- Update the list throughout the project and save it for potential reuse in future projects.
So those are 5 simple ways mind maps can aid you in all stages of project planning. When you’re ready to go from planning to execution, you can use MindMeister’s integration with the collaborative project manager MeisterTask to seamlessly turn your mind maps into agile project boards, and get productive with your team!