How Mind Mapping Can Be Beneficial for Project Managers
Every squad needs a leader, every ship, a captain and every project, a project manager — someone who keeps things on track, knows the end goal and knows how to get everyone there. Project management is no easy feat, and while some may think “I can put a team together and make sure things get done”, that isn’t the be-all and end-all of managing a project.
According to the Project Management Institute, project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. To put it simply, it means juggling all the right things, the right way, for the right amount of time to achieve the right results. Project management usually encompasses five processes: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling and Closing.
The Value of Project Management
A report published by the Project Management Institute claims that organizations that don’t prioritize project management report a 50% rate of project failure. This is a shocking statistic, one that begs the question “Why don’t organizations invest more in project management?”
The answers vary from business to business, but to realize the true value of project management, here are six reasons that detail its importance:
1. Realistic Project Planning
Projects can very quickly derail if they don’t have a sure-fire project plan. A project manager assesses goals, timelines, budgets, and team capacity and prioritizes to create a realistic plan that balances each.
2. Clear Objectives
For a project to be successful, a team has to have their eye on one clear goal. Project managers help organizations set these objectives and stick to them throughout the project duration.
3. Strategic Alignment
Project managers help integrate organizations’ business strategies into project goals.
4. Managed Process
Project managers manage their teams. They know who’s right for what task and they help delegate and manage work so everyone is maximizing their potential.
5. Quality Control
A project manager ensures consistency and quality from the get-go. A project that meets the deadline but misses the mark is unacceptable for business, and a manager can help prevent that.
6. Reduced Costs
A project manager’s job is to reduce risk, optimize resources and effectively manage costs so that projects don’t overspend or encounter losses.
Project management also helps organizations foster teamwork, build business resilience and learn from failure. Although it’s been a gradual process, companies are now realizing the value project management brings to a business. Today, Project Management Offices were found to deliver a 33% improvement in projects completed under budget, a 27% boost in customer satisfaction and a 25% increase in productivity. The U.S Bureau of Labor’s estimates show that with success rates like this, “it is expected that employers will need around 87.7 million project management professionals by 2027”
As is with anything, project management has its own share of challenges. Most managers face obstacles throughout the duration of a project, both predictable and unseen. From dealing with unrealistic deadlines to risk management, project managers are always on their toes. Technical issues aside, one of the biggest challenges is to keep the team together, working towards a common goal, at all times. To reach this end, an article by Fiscal Tiger suggests strengthening team communication through methods like active listening, being receptive to feedback, personalized communication and allowing employees to recharge so that they know they are an important and appreciated part of the process.
Mind Mapping as a Tool for Effective Project Management
When it comes to structuring information, delegating tasks and ideating, project managers have more than a few tricks up their sleeves. With mountains of information, tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities to prioritize, one can find it difficult to create a structured, engaging and not overwhelming plan for their teams to follow. This is where mind mapping comes in. In terms of both technicalities and creativity, mind mapping is one way to make project management more effective.
What is a mind map?
Think of how you arrive at a thought — it starts at point A, maybe recalls a memory that takes you to point E, then spurs an idea at point T and another one that brings you to point Y. Sometimes, we can’t even trace our final thought to where it began, and we think we got there through random associations. But really, all the dots connect. A mind map is like a tangible representation of the human thought process of association, put down on paper.
According to Mind Tools, mind maps, “use a two-dimensional structure, instead of the list format conventionally used to take notes. This makes information easier to remember, as it's held in a format that our minds find easy to recall and quick to review. A good Mind Map shows the "shape" of the subject, the relative importance of individual points, and the ways in which facts relate to one another.”
Mind-mapping has been around for centuries, but it was first popularised by British psychologist and author Tony Buzan. While he was studying for an upcoming examination, Buzan found himself growing frustrated with his linear note-taking and began to mark out key words, highlight important parts and box ideas. He found his retention and recall began improving and soon he started his research on note-taking. Geniuses such as DaVinci and Darwin were found to have used notetaking modalities that included doodles, keywords, and diagrammed associations. These modes formed the basis for Buzan’s own structure titled Rules of Mind Mapping.
How to Create a Mind Map
When one imagines a mind map, it’s generally the conventional image of bubbles and criss-cross lines scribbled on a sheet of paper or across a whiteboard-not the most conducive for a professional environment. Luckily, as is the case with most things, even mind maps have gotten an upgrade thanks to technology.
Today, besides the option of using programs like Microsoft Word to create mind maps, there is plenty of advanced mind-mapping software out there. The core functionalities of this software remain the same: start with a central thought or topic and branch out to different connections, sub-topics, ideas, etc. With mind mapping software, teams can collaborate, vote for ideas, add comments and provide external links-all with structured, clean and appealing visuals.
The Benefits of Mind Mapping
Mind mapping, though helpful at any stage, is most efficient in the planning and executing stages of project management. It helps delegate work and can also be used to collect ideas from teammates. But it doesn’t stop there, mind maps offer a host of benefits for project management including:
In most projects, big or small, assigning tasks can be a haphazard, confusing process with plenty of room for overlap. With a mind map, project managers can delegate and assign different moving pieces to each person and elaborate on the responsibilities those roles constitute. Mins maps serve as a clear plan of action and as a reference point that people can keep coming back to.
- Brainstorming & Creativity
Ideas are like sparks, one ignites another and eventually, starts a fire. With mind maps — team members can let their minds wander, come up with creative solutions and bounce ideas off each other. The mind map then captures these ideas, makes connections and outlines which make the most sense to everyone.
With diverse teammates varying in age and background, it can be hard for project managers to find a one-size-fits-all solution that brings the team together. Mind maps are an open, collaborative process that allows anyone to contribute and spark ideas off someone else’s. They allow for open communication, active listening and even easy uptraining — all important tools to integrate employees of different backgrounds to work together towards a common goal.
Possibly one of the best benefits of mind-mapping is the productivity it spurs. The MindMapping Software Blog’s Chuck Frey conducts regular surveys every 2 years to discover more use cases and effects of mind mapping. This report finds that “mind mapping software helps busy executives to be 20-30% more productive in their work”— a statistic that has been consistent over 8 years.
The process of mind-mapping really brings a team together. For project managers, how they handle a team is crucial and exercises like this can really improve team communication and strengthen relations. Through the usage of mind-mapping, team members can understand another’s thinking process, their perception of the task at hand and appreciate and learn from each other’s ideas.
Almost every project takes a detour at some point, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ideas develop further, challenges crop up and new routes are explored. Mind maps help project managers create a flexible project plan that allows room for change, addition, subtraction or a whole do-over.
The most successful project managers are not just those that meet the deadline and make the project work, it’s those that bring real value to their team and their organization. They do everything they can to pull their team-up, put them on the right track and get them to the finish line. Thus, Project management is all about being a good leader, a good communicator, a good team member and a good planner. In this regard, using creative solutions like mind-mapping can seriously help project managers’ bring an organization’s project vision to life.
About the author
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but business and leadership topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.