Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Explore the full potential of MindGenius and maximise your ROI

We are delighted at another successful year of continued growth in the global MindGenius user-base. This, combined with high attendance at, and positive feedback from our popular webinar series, has highlighted the need for us to work more closely and in more collaborative ways with our users to help them realise the full potential of MindGenius. As a result, we are happy to announce the appointment of Jamie MacDonald, a highly experienced trainer, facilitator and coach, to head up the client development department.

The range of client development services will include training, both online and onsite, webinars and tailored workshops, and implementation services all geared to help users make the most out of MindGenius and receive optimum return on their investment in the software. So if you want to learn how to effectively capture and utilize ideas in your organization, keep the momentum between Brainstorming sessions and action, or effectively implement improved project planning mechanisms, we will have a solution to help. Of course, you may have specific requirements in your organization and we can create bespoke courses and interventions to suit.

Jamie brings over 20 years’ experience in training, development, HRM and business improvement. He has a broad working knowledge of strategic planning, business process improvement, change management, business growth and people and organisational development and has personally fronted training events, workshops and larger business process improvement projects within numerous major UK and international organisations, UK Councils, and many other private SMEs - working closely with CEOs, Board members, and senior management, as well as staff at all levels.

Jamie said:

“One of my main aims is to help users increase personal, team and organisational productivity, efficiency and results through their application of MindGenius and associated methodologies. Another aim is to help organisations with the implementation and buy-in of MindGenius product and methodologies in multiple-user or large-scale installations – working closely with stakeholders to maximise use and added-value to the business. No matter your company type or size, we will have a range of services offerings to suit and can tailor them to suit you and your organization.”

Get in touch with Jamie either via the comments below or at jamiem@mindgenius.com, with your specific requirements or suggestions on how we can develop and improve the MindGenius client development offering.

New Year Webinar Update

Get work off to the right start in the New Year with the MindGenius webinar series. Initially we will be running additional sessions on an Introduction to MindGenius 4, an Introduction to Project Planning with MindGenius and MindGenius for Consultants, however this will be expanded to include more diverse topics so please get in touch via the comments below if you have any areas you would like to see us cover.

The webinars aim is to help users make the most out of MindGenius and discover functionality they may not be familiar with. They are free to attend, you will have the opportunity to ask questions during the session, and are ideal for both new and existing users of MindGenius.

The series has been extremely well attended with positive feedback on the content and over 95% of attendees rating the content as “good” or “excellent.” Some feedback from recent webinar attendees includes:

“I do hope you'll run more of these. I've had MindGenius for a few months now, but haven't used it much. I had no idea it could do all you showed. I will definitely be using it much more now!"

“Exactly what I was looking for - clear and concise. Can't wait to receive the recording link in order to share with other managers. Plan to start using immediately. Thank you!”

Make sure you don’t miss out and sign up today for January’s scheduled events: www.mindgenius.com/Resources/Webinars.aspx

MindGenius now supported on Biggerplate mind mapping community

MindGenius are pleased to announce that they are now supported on http://www.biggerplate.com/, one of the largest communities of mind map users in the world.

Becoming a member of Biggerplate is free and, once registered, allows users to share map content with others and to download from a choice of thousands of maps.

MindGenius has many different communities of users including project managers, consultants, and compliance managers, as well as those in a client facing role such as sales and marketing professionals, and MindGenius believes that Biggerplate is a fantastic way for users to connect within and across these different communities.

Initially MindGenius will be sharing a project management set of maps which includes a mix of real life project management examples, reusable templates, and information maps covering areas of project management such as Planning, PRINCE2, Agile methods, etc. As an added advantage for MindGenius users, the MindGenius import capabilities* offers immediate access to most of the content on Biggerplate, not just the MindGenius maps.

How can Mind Mapping Software help Project Managers
Download full map from http://www.biggerplate.com/mindmaps/fNF38bef/how-mind-mapping-software-can-help-project-managers
Check Biggerplate regularly as MindGenius will be continuing to upload fresh content and be sure to share your own maps. Maps can be rated and are searchable in a variety of categories including Business, Academic and General with hundreds of additional sub sets.

Agile Software Development
Download full map from www.biggerplate.com
Derek Jack, Director of MindGenius, said "MindGenius are looking forward to being a part of the Biggerplate community and giving MindGenius users access to content across a wide variety of areas. Our starting point is project management since we have recognised a big growth in this community and feel this is a great way for them to connect with other users to share knowledge. We will also be uploading maps on many diverse subjects in the near future. We would encourage our users to take the opportunity to use this medium and share their own expertise, and gain fresh ideas on applying MindGenius."

Liam Hughes, Founder of Biggerplate said “We are very excited to welcome MindGenius and their users to Biggerplate, especially as this has been highly requested by members of our community over the past six months! The focus on project management within the MindGenius business and user-base means we expect to see a significant increase in both the quantity and quality of map content in this area being shared on Biggerplate. As we continue to strengthen our position as a leading source of mind mapping content and community, our new partnership with the fantastic team at MindGenius represents another significant and exciting step in the right direction for Biggerplate and our members!”

Visit http://www.biggerplate.com/ today to get involved.

*MindGenius can currently import MindManager files

MindGenius Webinars - November and December

Our recent series of webinars has been going well and we are pleased to announce the next in the series.

You can register now for Introduction to MindGenius 4, Project Management with MindGenius and MindGenius for Consultants. 

All webinars are free and open to everyone so sign up now.

Wednesday 16th November, 4pm GMT, 11am EST
Introduction to Project Management with MindGenius Register

This webinar will offer an introduction to using MindGenius for your project management activities, including maintaining consistency in project inception, gaining stakeholder buy-in, creating product & work breakdown structures, project resourcing and scheduling and monitoring and controlling your projects.

Thursday 17th November, 6am GMT, 4pm AEST
Introduction to Project Management with MindGenius   Register

This webinar will offer an introduction to using MindGenius for your project management activities, including maintaining consistency in project inception, gaining stakeholder buy-in, creating product & work breakdown structures, project resourcing and scheduling and monitoring and controlling your projects.

Wednesday 23rd November, 4pm GMT, 11am EST
MindGenius for Consultants   Register

This session will cover how MindGenius can help Consultants to facilitate engaging client sessions, capture customer requirements and plan projects.

Wednesday 7th December, 6am GMT,4pm AEST
Introduction to MindGenius 4   Register
This webinar is for new users of MindGenius and will cover how to make the most out of MindGenius 4, including how MindGenius allows you to quickly capture and create a visual representation of your ideas, gain understanding on your ideas through analysing and sorting them, develop more creative and comprehensive solutions, and move to action far more quickly.

Wednesday 7th December, 4pm GMT, 11am EST
Introduction to MindGenius 4  Register
This webinar is for new users of MindGenius and will cover how to make the most out of MindGenius 4, including how MindGenius allows you to quickly capture and create a visual representation of your ideas, gain understanding on your ideas through analysing and sorting them, develop more creative and comprehensive solutions, and move to action far more quickly.

Thursday 8th December, 4pm GMT, 11am EST
Introduction to Project Management with MindGenius 4   Register

This webinar will offer an introduction to using MindGenius for your project management activities, including maintaining consistency in project inception, gaining stakeholder buy-in, creating product & work breakdown structures, project resourcing and scheduling and monitoring and controlling your projects.

As always, if there are any additional topics you would like us to cover, get in touch and keep up to date with the MindGenius webinar programme at http://www.mindgenius.com/Resources/Webinars.aspx.

MindGenius Webinar Series Update

Following a great response to our initial Introduction to MindGenius webinars, we are now pleased to announce more details of our upcoming webinar programme.

The first in this series is for Consultants and will be held on Thursday 20th October at 4pm GMT Summer Time. This webinar will cover how MindGenius can help you;

  • Facilitate engaging sessions with your clients
  • Capture customer requirements
  • Plan projects
Consultants who use MindGenius cover a wide variety of specialities but all have one thing in common: they believe MindGenius can help them improve the experience they offer their customers and this webinar will show how the MindGenius approach can be applied in a consultancy setting.

Read the story of a consultant who uses MindGenius in conjunction with WebEx to deliver online mind mapping to slash the time and cost of collaborative problem solving.

Register for the upcoming MindGenius webinars:

20th October 4pm GMT Summer Time, 11am EST
MindGenius for Consultants Register

26th October 4pm GMT Summer Time, 11am EST
Project Management with MindGenius Register

9th November 6am GMT, 4pm AEST
Introduction to MindGenius Register

9th November 4pm GMT, 11am EST
Introduction to MindGenius Register

More Webinars will be announced next month, are there any topics you would like to see us cover?

SWOT Analysis - So What?

SWOT analysis is a useful tool for the development and evaluation of strategy and action plans. The acronym - SWOT - stands for: Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunities; Threats.

The analysis is usually applied within a specific context, from the viewpoint of; an organisation or company; a product; a project; an individual. The time to use it is when a goal or objective has been set and you are defining the strategy or plan to achieve it.

Analysis of an organisation, project or individual might be interesting but to derive meaningful strategy a clear focus is needed. This is provided by a goal or objective, such as to expand the company, enter a new market, implement major changes or to gain promotion to the top level. With the context and goal as the focus, the analysis then considers:

  • What will help to achieve the goal
  • What will impede progress
  • What can be taken advantage of
  • What must be overcome.
The definitions of each element of SWOT are simple:

  • Strengths: positive advantages to the organisation, thing or person; internal factors that are within your control
  • Weaknesses: internal factors that will hinder the achievement of the goal and that are within your ability to influence
  • Opportunities: external factors, relevant to the achievement of the goal - providing motivation or an advantage, consider when these opportunities may be present and for how long
  • Threats: external factors, outside of your control which present risk to the achievement of the goal, identify their likelihood and possible impact.
From this, you can see that SWOT provides more than just a one dimensional analysis, it helps identify:
  • Positives and negatives that will impact achievement of the goal
  • Internal and external - within your control or not
  • Time frames - now and the future.

SWOT analysis provides a model for you to consider these dimensions together, as illustrated by the figure above.

The key thing to get across is that the analysis - listing the factors against each of the SWOT elements - is only part of the process.

Once you have done this first step, you will be ready to ask yourself, “Ok, I've made some lists - I sort of knew most of this already. But what do I do next to get some real value from this - how do I formulate a plan or strategy?”

The next step is to take the ideas and create an action plan or strategy:
  • Review the ideas captured - what strategies come to mind?
  • Maintain or build on strengths
  • Weaknesses to be fixed, changed or stopped
  • Opportunities to be grasped, when and how
  • Contingencies to overcome or mitigate threats
  • Review the actions - create one or more plans with timeframes
  • Review the plan(s) and evaluate alternatives
  • Ask the question, "How well does this help with achievement of the goal?"
  • Select the preferred strategy, assign ownership and start to act.

Steve Rothwell is the Editor of the Peace of Mind blog. Steve has also put together additional articles on SWOT Analysis. The articles can be found at:

SWOT Analysis - Getting from Ideas to Action
SWOT Analysis - Brainstorming Ideas

One way that Steve practices SWOT Analysis is by utilizing MindGenius mind mapping software.

Do you have any SWOT Analysis tips to share?

Keeping Project Retrospectives Fresh

A project retrospective is a facilitated session held either at the end of a project’s lifecycle or at various intervals throughout. Also known as lessons learned or project close outs, retrospectives are held to identify and analyse what went well and what did not.

Retrospectives are utilised to learn from past mistakes and to take these lessons forward into the next phase of the project. Vincent Pickering, a Software Project Manager at Gael Ltd, believes the objective of a Retrospective is to learn and adapt.

Vincent is responsible for planning and the day-to-day needs of projects assigned to him. He oversees 2- 3 projects at a time which can vary in team size from 3 to 20 software developers.

Vincent says that they apply the Agile SCRUM project delivery method for each development assignment. Vincent is an advocate for retrospectives to be performed throughout a project. He says that not only is there a final project retrospective session at the close of the development project but a retrospective meeting is held every two weeks, at the conclusion of each sprint. A sprint is a time period, around 2 weeks, in which development takes place on a set of backlog items that the Team has prioritised.

There are issues with running a retrospective every 2 weeks. Vincent believes that these sessions can become rather stale leading to sessions seeming repetitive thus not producing any valuable insight or relevant actions. Focusing on techniques to keep the retrospectives fresh such as De Bono’s six thinking hats, 5 Whys and SWOT analysis have brought a certain amount of success to him. Switching locations and swapping facilitators also brings an element of freshness to the retrospectives.

One specific technique that is a personal favourite of Vincent’s is the mad/sad/glad framework. Every two weeks, once a sprint is completed, he will gather all project participants into a room and try to entice information out of each individual concerning the delivery of the sprint. He kicks off by starting with the positive, throwing a wide question “OK, what went well, what’s the good stuff?” Classic replies are that they met their deadlines, worked through a problem well, or that someone new had joined the team. Generally there will be people who are shy and might need a little prompting to get something out of them. Vincent has a ready set of prompts created for such situations to help encourage individuals to participate.

Fig 1. Retrospective Brainstorming session.
 Vincent believes people are happier communicating negatives rather than positives. Most people have something that annoyed them ‘sad’ and if anyone is really annoyed/angry then they usually don’t have to be prompted to speak up. Typical sadness is that “I didn’t have the time to fix that annoying bug’ or the build server played up again.

Hopefully actual anger, ‘mad,’ will already have been abated before the meeting, it would not be wise to go ahead with a meeting where people just want to throw rocks at one another. ‘mad’ answers would be ‘the build server is so unreliable it cost us two days of development and that’s why we missed our deadline’.

Vincent explains, “If there is any skill in this it’s facilitation – keep the meeting running when conversation dries up, don’t be afraid to let the group lead the discussion somewhere unexpected, be gentle with the shy folks. If there isn’t anything to talk about, don’t labour it. Only step in if things are getting out of hand. If the meetings are getting stale then change the format, or try out different activities.”

Fig 2. Mad/Sad/Glad Framework
From these Retrospective sessions, Vincent will be able to identify what areas should be enhanced, whether a new process should be introduced or whether any specific individual has performed well. Once the group has reached a common agreement, actions are derived from the session (usually round the sad/mads) and volunteered or assigned out. This is important since if you don’t try and fix what went wrong you aren’t adapting but just getting things off your chest. The next retrospective session will contain a review of actions allocated in the previous session.

A retrospective is an invaluable tool to help learn and adapt. Vincent has successfully used the mad/sad/glad framework to help keep the sessions fresh and promote individual thinking amongst the group. Using this framework in conjunction with MindGenius allowed Vincent to unearth all relevant information from the participants and keep the meeting streamlined. From the completed map, participants are able to recognize the lessons learned and have a clear view of tasks to be implemented in the next phase of the project.

Monthly Webinar Series Announcement

The first in a series of MindGenius Version 4 webinars has now taken place.

With the majority of attendees rating the content as excellent and high attendance we are pleased to announce we will be hosting a monthly series of webinars with the aim to share knowledge on how to make the most out of MindGenius.

As always we are interested in what our customers would like us to cover so whether you want to know how MindGenius can help you manage your projects or, how it can be used for strategy planning, let us know which topics you are interested in.

The next in the series is scheduled for the middle of October and we will announce the specific details well in advance of this so you can schedule time for you and your team to attend.

WikiSummarizer – Relevance Matters

We have recently been catching up with Henry Lewkowicz of Context Discovery Inc., finding out more about their WikiSummarizer application and how the powerful summaries that this web based application creates can now be downloaded as MindGenius files.

WikiSummarizer is a web based application designed to find and extract for you, the essential facts and relevant information about a topic from Wikipedia.

So if you need to rapidly find relevant Wikipedia articles to aid your research activities, are currently suffering from information overload or generally need to quickly find out more about any topic this application can help you.

The technology developed by Context Discovery automatically creates and stores summaries of Wikipedia articles in the WikiSummarizer knowledge base. The summaries identify the most important keywords and content in the articles and rank them by relevancy. Users can then search the knowledge base and download the summaries as RTF or MindGenius files.

We encourage you to have a look at http://www.wikisummarizer.com/ and experiment with the different ways to produce summaries;

1. Condense Wikipedia articles to the essential keywords and summaries

Enter the name of a Wikipedia article in the "Summarize Wikipedia article" tab and time saving summaries of the Wikipedia article will be presented.

2. Quickly find Wikipedia references to a topic

Enter a keyword in the “Search Wikipedia” tab and the most significant Wikipedia articles related to the keyword will be presented.

3. Find and Summarize relevant topics

Enter a keyword in the "Get Summaries" tab, and complete summaries of the most relevant articles related to the keyword will be presented.

4. Summarize Webpage articles

Enter a URL in the “WebSummarizer” tab, and a summary of the Webpage article will be presented.

Remember, the results of these different searches can be downloaded into a MindGenius map providing a quick start to your research and projects and an opportunity to progress much quicker than would normally be possible.

WikiSummarizer.com is currently a test site that Context Discovery have made available for people to explore the value and uses of the summarization technology. The entire content of Wikipedia has been summarized and stored on the website to demonstrate the use of summaries to create powerful knowledge bases.

Henry further explained that the summarization technology could be adapted to any website, SharePoint, corporate document repository or content management system to create corporate knowledge libraries.

We have a number of ideas about how this could be integrated with MindGenius and we are very interested to hear about your experience of using WikiSummarizer and your thoughts on how this could help you. Please let us know.

Henry commented that WikiSummarizer.com is an applied research site that currently relies upon sponsorship to allow them to keep learning from users and adding new features in response.

Please visit and support http://www.wikisummarizer.com/.  

Solution and Effect Analysis

In last month’s Ask Gordon article, I discussed the identification of the root causes of a problem. The example used was in relation to ‘low staff satisfaction in staff appraisal system’. The root causes identified were as follows:

The task now is to implement a solution, or solutions, to solve the problem.

I adopt the following process to implement solutions to rectify problems.
  • Identify potential solutions
  • Assess effects associated with proposed solutions
  • Identify optimum solution
  • Agree implementation plan
  • Implement
  • Verify
Identify potential solutions
So how would I go about fixing the problem having identified the root causes? I would walk through the category – centric maps I generated, review the symptoms associated with the root causes and then brainstorm some potential solutions.

In the ‘Poor Deployment’ section, a key root cause is that the staff appraisal system is not integrated into normal work activities. It appears to be a one-off, independent activity. How could the staff appraisal system be better integrated?

Managers and staff meet and interact on a regular basis over the review period. Such interactions should surely provide a meaningful input to the staff appraisal discussion.

So one solution that comes to mind would be to provide all managers and supervisors with a MindGenius template to use as a framework for their interactions and discussions.

But would such a solution work?

Assess effects associated with proposed solutions

A solution, once implemented, should have an effect. We normally have an appreciation of the positive effects that it will have – that’s why we deployed it. But will it have any adverse side effects? Have we thought the implementation through and have we included any preventative activities in the implementation plan to mitigate any potential side effects? You have to be careful you don’t fall into motherhood mode and become blinkered – it’s my solution therefore it will work. You need to consider the pros and cons dispassionately.

I explore the potential effects using a Solution and Effect approach. This is simply a reversal of the Cause and Effect approach I discussed last month and in this case I use the MindGenius Output Tree format.

The 6M level 1 branches prompt me to consider effects that the solution might have (good or bad) if considered from these different perspectives. This helps me take a well rounded view of the solution as well as helping me to avoid the motherhood trap. I can gain an appreciation of any adverse side effects before I implement the solution and take steps to eliminate or mitigate them.

As I identify potential effects, I record these in the Solution and Effect Map. I highlight the negative effects so I can address them.

If I take the MindGenius Review template solution this results in the following map

Is the ‘All staff need access to MindGenius’ side effect a show stopper?

A quick review suggests no and indicates that there are steps that could readily be taken to eliminate this potential adverse side effect.
The maps that you are developing also give you valuable information to support your case for the deployment of the proposed solution.

Identify optimum solution

The solution is intended to address a key root cause ‘Poor Deployment’ but how effectively does it do that?

One way is to take the solution and assess its impact on the root causes previously identified.

This helps identify potential problem areas that still need to be addressed.

To address the ‘Too project/task orientated?’ concern then the MindGenius Review template could be revised as follows

Again I would revisit THE maps to verify that this did in fact address the intended root causes and that there were no significant side effects.

Agree implementation plan

In order to understand the timeframes, activities, resources and costs involved you need to develop an implementation plan.

Now you are in a position to implement, or gain approval to implement, your solution.


The implementation plan would be used as the roadmap to ensure that the solution was implanted as plan.


Included in the implementation plan would be a verification activity to ensure that the solution achieved the desired benefits. In this case:
I’ve added Communication. Why? Because it is important that you maintain effective communication routes to all affected and interested parties throughout the process.

In understanding and identifying the root causes you need to involve the people experiencing the problem so you take a well rounded approach.

In implementing the solution you need to continually inform the people affected of what you are about to do and why you are doing it so they will support the implementation.

To recap, my approach to problem solving is as follows:

The amount of effort and activities involved in these separate steps will be dependent on the nature of the problem and its proposed solution.

Problem Solving can be a complex or simple task. It depends on the nature and scope of the problem being addressed. There are a number of problem solving methodologies that you could use but I don’t believe that one size fits all. You have to be flexible and creative. You have to have a toolkit of problem solving techniques and be able to apply the correct tool for the job. This can often involve using a number of techniques in the one problem solving activity. For example. Which of the solutions identified should I use? (Pros and Cons analysis). Have I missed anything? (De Bono 6 hats). It’s down to you and what works for you in a given situation. At least you have MindGenius to help you carry out these tasks.

In these two articles on Problem Solving I’ve probably only shown you the tip of the iceberg. Interestingly when you start to solve a problem, you are probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg too. You will be surprised at what you often uncover. And lastly, don’t set your expectations too high. It’s unlikely that you’ll fix in a day something that many people have taken months, if not years, to mess up.
As ever, if you have any queries, ask Gordon

Top 5 Social Media Highlights

Welcome to another social media highlights where I will be taking you through a look at the top 5 articles, news, tweets and Facebook posts that came our way this month.

1) We start off with Dr Andrew Makar of Tactical Project Management who wrote an excellent article offering his Five Reasons for Using MindGenius for Projects. This article proved to be a big hit, generating a large number of tweets and reaction in the Twitterverse and is a great overview on the benefits mind mapping with MindGenius can bring to projects.


2) Chuck Frey, author of the mind mapping software blog, has collated and released the results of his mind mapping software trends survey that was published last month. The results are interesting to say the least with the majority of respondents recognising that their mind mapping software has helped them to increase their productivity by 30% and almost 60% of respondents indicated they would not be able to create the same quality of work if they didn’t have mind mapping software.

Does your mind mapping software enable you to tackle more complex tasks and projects that you would have previously avoided?

Read the full results: http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/2011-survey-results-published/

3) Steve Rothwell over at Peace of Mind advocates that mind maps are much more than a set of bullet points by another name. Steve explains how to create a presentation from your map and how to avoid monotonous slides containing not much more than bullet points.


4) Andrew Makar produced another great article for TechRepublic stating that using mind mapping software for project logs is easier than filtering a spreadsheet. Read about the benefits the mind mapping format has over conventional spreadsheet software.

5) Over on Twitter I found this article from Learning 3.0 discussing using mind mapping in creative thinking exercises. Paul Urban takes us through the 5 stages of the creative thinking process in an informative article.


Have any social media posts stood out for you this month?

Problem Solving with Gordon (Part A)

We face problems on a daily basis. Our success or failure often hinges on how effectively we deal with these problems. Problem Solving is an essential skill. Hence this article.

But what could be simpler? We have a problem. We provide a solution. Problem is fixed. Everything in the garden is rosy. Oh, if only it was that easy.

What we often see are the symptoms of the problem, not necessarily the root causes of the problem. Yet it is the root causes that we need to address to effectively eliminate the problem. When we provide a solution does it really fix the problem? How do we know? Also, will the solution introduce new problems in other areas?

So problem solving is not necessarily simple or straightforward. Fortunately there are many problem solving methodologies that can be used. I'm going to discuss two specific methodologies:
• Cause & Effect
• Solution & Effect
These are based on the use of diagrams which are often referred to as Ishikawa or Fishbone diagrams.

I've also divided this subject into two Ask Gordon articles. In this article, Part A, I will cover Cause & Effect and in Part B (next month) I will discuss Solution & Effect.

Identifying Roots Causes using the Cause & Effect methodology

There are a number of ‘standard’ Cause & Effect diagrams which provide different frameworks. The 6M approach is often used in manufacturing sectors whilst the 6P and the 4S may be more appropriate to the service sectors. The choice is yours. I will use the 6M approach in this article.

These frameworks can be applied in a practical manner with MindGenius. I do not use the classic fishbone diagram. I use the MindGenius input tree diagram. Purists may hold up their hands in horror, but it has proven to work for me. Hopefully you will see why as the article progress.

Let's look at a specific problem scenario. It's one that I have seen in many organisations.

Company A has a staff appraisal system in place. Basically it is a system of appraisal whereby a staff member and their immediate manager/supervisor meet to discuss how the staff member is performing and developing to the mutual benefit of themselves and the company. The intent is that potential issues and opportunities are identified and acted upon where agreed. However, a recent staff satisfaction survey has indicated staff dissatisfaction with the staff appraisal system.

So let’s start problem solving.


You'd be surprised how many people just go off half cocked. They instantly believe that they know what the problem is. Put in a solution. Walk away - that's it fixed. I often refer to this as the ‘Hero’ culture.

The first, and important, step is to understand the situation. I enter gather mode. I need to collect information to aid my understanding. I use the Cause & Effect diagram to facilitate this. The Effect is ‘Low staff satisfaction in staff appraisal system.’Causes? That’s the key question.

The 6M diagram provides me with a framework to start understanding the current situation. I start to talk to people using the 6M framework to ensure that the different potential perspectives of the problem are covered and that my approach is consistent.

I often attach an activity management map to the core of my map so that I ensure that I gather information from a representative cross section of sources.

This also provides a useful reference if there are any future queries on information sources.

The map soon builds up.

But. And as always there is a big but. You've only collected information and opinion which most likely reflect the symptoms of the problem. Not the root causes - the things that you need to identify and address.

Identifying the root causes is where the hard work begins. They don't often tell you that in the literature. To do this you need to interpret and analyse the information you have gathered. You need to rearrange the information you have gathered and group them against potential root causes. At this point I’m moving away from the 6M diagram. It has served its purpose in facilitating my information gathering. Now I have to move on. This is where I need to re-use the information I’ve gathered and use it to best effect. Hence why I mentioned before that I wasn’t concerned about using the input tree diagram rather than the fishbone diagram.


What the input tree diagram does is to pull the information together so that your brain can feed off of it and start to identify underlying issues (potential root causes). I walk through the map to familiarise myself with all of the content. If there are any significant gaps in the recorded information then I perform some more gathering activities.

As thoughts spring to mind during the map walkthrough, I develop another map of potential root causes. It would be great if there was a single root cause, but in practice you invariably find that the problem is brought about by a combination of a number of root causes. Which is why addressing a single root cause often does not solve a problem.

Then I assign categories to these potential root causes and attach the map to the core of my cause & effect map so that I can access it when required.

I then go back through my map and assign these categories where there is a potential linkage. There can be multiple root cause linkages from a single branch in the map.

Having assigned these root cause categories, I can quickly create a new category centric map based on the information already gathered.

The category concentric map can initiate a major re-think of the potential root causes if there appears to be lack of evidence supporting them.

Here’s what the resulting category map looks like for the methods parent branch from my Input Tree (Gathering) map.

Can you imagine how difficult and messy this would be to do on a fishbone diagram and even worse how would you do it on paper?

Indications from category concentric maps are that I’ve identified a number of root causes, hopefully all of them. So I am now in the position to consider what may be an appropriate solution(s) to implement. But that’s for next month’s article.

Some other things you could possibly do as part of the process.
• Identify the sources of the information using Resources.
• Categorise the information to show whether or not it is:

So that’s my approach to the first, and vitally important, part of problem solving – identifying the root causes of the problem.

As ever, if you have any queries, ask Gordon

MindGenius.com back online

MindGenius.com is now back online following the lightning strike on our Amazon data centre in Dublin. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

MindGenius.com Offline

mindgenius.com is offline due to a lightning strike at the Amazon data centre in Dublin. Read more on this. Apologies for any inconvenience caused. You will be unable to access our site until this matter is resolved.

In the meantime, you can still access video resources at our YouTube channel, or contact MindGenius on the details below:

General Enquiries: info@mindgenius.com, or +44(0) 1355 247 766

Support Enquiries: support@mindgenius.com

Sales Enquiries: sales@mindgenius.com, or 44 (0)1865 339 627

Version 4 Map Viewer Now Available

The MindGenius Version 4 Map Viewer is now available to download. The Viewer allows colleagues and customers who do not have Version 4 to view your maps, and also allows them to add Notes to branches, enabling them to review maps and add comments and feedback to your ideas before sending it back to you.

While currently a full trial version of MindGenius does turn into a viewer after 30 days, it does not offer the capability to add branch notes and the Map Viewer file is also far more compact which has seen it rolled out to several Enterprise customers' desktops.

The new Map Viewer may also be helpful in the Academic world as it allows tutors or teachers to issue revision maps or project outlines to students and then instruct them to download the Map Viewer file to access them at home. The download is a straightforward and simple process which only takes a couple of minutes.

The Map Viewer is free and available to download now from http://www.mindgenius.com/Support/Downloads.aspx

Talking the walk to wellbeing

The Department of Health recently issued guidelines for office workers on the amount of time they spend sitting down and the benefits of taking regular exercise in order to combat rising levels of obesity and increase mood, as in the modern workplace, many of us forgo lunch and spend much of the day sitting down.

Dr Valerie Gladwell, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex is researching health and wellbeing in the workplace and recently had to present on this topic at a breakfast meeting given to businesses by the University of Essex.

Valerie is the daughter of John Bothams, Senior Lecturer at Strathclyde University Management School, and long-time MindGenius evangelist.

Since John has considerable experience of providing ‘lectures’ for managers, being a Business Management Lecturer for 25 years, and a holder of an MA in Management Learning, Valerie asked if he could try and help prepare a dynamic presentation, especially as it was a very early morning meeting and needed to grab the attention of the audience and ensure that they were able to take home the key messages. Here John outlines the process he went through:

Valerie wished to provide an overview of health and wellbeing in a fresh way and provide evidence from recent research to back up the key messages. The audience was wide ranging including senior management and staff with specific responsibility for health and wellbeing in small, medium, and large companies, across a wide spectrum of business sectors. So her specific talk had to be, in her words:

“in a sensible format, not too innovative so the messages got lost, but have “a freshness” and be deliverable in 15 minutes in 4-5 slides.”

The final delivered result can be seen in PDF format at http://www.essex.ac.uk/bs/better4work/  

I happened to be beta testing at the final stages, just before release of MindGenius 4 and thought this would be an ideal opportunity to test the new presentation mode

Through a process involving an exchange of e-mails and spider diagrams she drew, I started to develop in MindGenius what I thought were her key messages. I felt important that each slide would show the whole picture, but each facet could be highlighted as she discussed it in greater detail. The main aim was to ensure the audience grasped that the integration of the ideas was important, without having to over-emphasise that integration.

An example of this was the link between the employer's legal responsibility and how improving health and well-being would also help business performance.

Another nice example was how the benefits spread from the individual employees to the work group and then on into the community via the family- i.e. the business then can fulfil some of its other responsibilities.

The talk received some excellent feedback.

Valerie feels the result of our combined efforts, provided:
• a non linear and memorable pictorial delivery of the key messages on:
o what can actually be done about improving wellbeing in the workplace
o the importance of health and wellbeing at all levels
o the evidence for health and wellbeing initiatives and the benefits to the individual
o the business case for how staff wellbeing can be of benefit to the business itself.

For me the fact that MindGenius is at core a ‘thinking tool’, rather than a drawing or presentation tool, meant the presentation slides were built directly from the thinking and were not a separately produced illustration of that thinking. This meant Valerie’s critical mental connections were securely locked in and could not be accidently omitted losing the overall logic and integrity of her thinking.

Please do download the talk but more importantly if you are an employer or an employee please do heed the messages about well being in the workplace and how it can benefit all concerned.

How Mind Mapping Software can help with more than study

Mind Mapping, or pictorial diagrams of ideas, has been around in one form or the other for thousands of years and in its modern format since the 1960’s. Since then it has been recognised as a study technique, and MindGenius, since its launch in 2001, has been used as a study tool with particular relevance in the Assisted Learning field. Its use at University level has now changed to include many diverse uses for Management, Students, and Classroom Learning.

Sarcoidosis Map
Mind Mapping software really can make a difference in Education and MindGenius have now put together a comprehensive PDF of real life customer stories that outlines how MindGenius can help at University and College level. It covers uses such as creating stimulating collaborative learning sessions, mind mapping for medical students, thesis research and delivery, and managing PRINCE2 projects.

Download a free copy now and let us know if you have any stories from your University or College that you would like to share. We would also like to share this information between different Universities and Colleges what do you consider the best forum to use? Would it be Facebook, a LinkedIn group or some other medium? Would you be interested in taking part?

High Level 5 Year Improvement Plan

Top 5 Social Media Highlights

My name is Simon Paterson and I’m the Social Media Champion at MindGenius. This month I am taking you through the top 5 articles, news, tweets and Facebook posts that came our way in July.

1) Chuck Frey, the author of the influential Mind Mapping Software blog ran a survey on Mind Mapping Trends. He is currently collating the results of the survey so look out for them over at his blog. We will also be publishing them via our social media channels.

Another survey that is still open is from Mindsystems and aims to find out what people are looking for in a mind mapping application. You can take the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FDTXXHF

You can also check out other social media posts this month at our Twitter page at http://twitter.com/#!/mindgenius  

2) Steve Rothwell over at Peace of Mind wrote an excellent article concerning the designing of presentations through MindGenius. He provides several solutions on how to improve presentations and a step by step guide on how to create a presentation with MindGenius. Check out his article.


3) Love to brainstorm but don’t quite know the best practices? Here is what Gijs Van Wulfen believes are the 25 Rules for a perfect brainstorm.

4) Philippe Boukobza from visual-mapping.com created a collective intelligence presentation using MindGenius. See how he got on below.

5) Over on our Facebook page, we created a quick poll to ask our users what their favourite Feature of MindGenius is. Head over to our Facebook page to see the results.


If you've not signed up to our social media channels yet, you can do so at our Facebook page above or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/mindgenius

Audit Preparation with Gordon Wyllie

I'm a great believer in being well prepared for important work activities. Sure, there are times when you have to fly by the seat of your pants, wing it, take a chance. But if you have the opportunity to prepare, then take it. Some say you need luck to succeed. More often than not, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. So this month’s topic is about preparation, audit preparation to be specific.

There are many types of audit. I will be using a conformance audit in this article. Conformance audits provide management with invaluable feedback on what is actually taking place in the workplace as opposed to what the procedures/regulations say should be happening. Such information is vital as it allows management to manage rather than react.

When I am tasked with performing an audit, my first step is to understand what is involved in performing such an audit and to size the task so that I can make arrangements accordingly. I use the following MindGenius template in the planning stage of the task.

Most of these activities, though essential, are fairly straightforward. Once you understand the scope of the audit, the critical task is to identify what to look for - the specific activities you will need to review and assess when performing the audit.

To add to the challenge, compliance audits tend to be a one-pass event. You ‘walk the job’ (normally in the workplace) observing, asking questions, looking at records, identifying and following the trail of possible non-conformances and collecting evidence of conformance (or not) as you go. Once the audit is finished, it's usually finished. You don't really get to have two bites at the cherry.

Also, you may not be an expert in this field. You may be asked to audit in a strange environment, perhaps in an industry sector that is not specifically your area of expertise. For example ISO9001 auditors can cover a wide range of industry sectors and types of companies within these different sectors.

So how do auditors identify what to look for and prepare to actually perform the audit? The use of checklists is a well proven approach. I use an 'anatomical' MindGenius checklist approach. I develop a skeleton map from the standards, procedures etc that I identified when scoping the audit. This provides the framework for my audit checklist, the bones if you will.

As I perform the audit, I add my observations, comments and details of evidence to the bones. I flesh out my map.

Here's how I do it.

First, I break the applicable areas of the related standards/procedures/ regulations down into their main sections and construct the skeleton, or framework. Standards and regulations tend to be structured by sections. However an organisation’s own procedures may not be so well structured. If that is the case, I break them down into sections as best I can – you have to work with what is provided.

The main sections act as groupings which I break into further sub-sections if required. I add the text from the scope documentation so I can see specifically what the requirement is. I then add questions and evidence that would be required to demonstrate compliance with a stated requirement. This is particularly important if the scope documentation merges multiple requirements into a sentence or paragraph as it can be easy to miss a particular requirement if they are not separated out.

If detailed in the scope documentation, I assign a resource (the title of the person responsible) to the appropriate branch. This allows me to filter the map based on a specific job title. So if I meet with a specific individual, I have a map of all the specific activities that they should be performing and the questions I should be asking them.

Now that I have my skeleton map, I can use it to add my comments, observations, evidence and findings as I perform the audit. Essentially I am adding flesh to the bones of the skeleton.

That’s how I do it in its simplest form, but as you no doubt know, doing it for real can introduce some challenges that need to be overcome. So, having created my skeleton map, how do I use it as a checklist for the audit?

When ‘walking the job’ it can be impractical to use electronic devices. E.g. battery low, system hangs, high/low ambient light, etc. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong – Murphy’s Law. Also using an electronic device can appear rude to the auditees and can detract from listening and observing - key skills in performing an audit.

So I often use paper. Yes, paper. You use the tool that's best for the job to be tackled. I paginate and print out my skeleton map in usable sized chunks. As I do the audit, I make quick hand written notes. Obviously there is not enough room in a map to write an epistle. So If needs be, I write it in a notebook (or in an available area of space on the map) and assign a letter to it. I then put the letter on the map as flesh.

So what benefits does this give me?

• The paper based approach is often quicker and less intrusive than using electronic devices. Also no techno gremlins.

• Auditees, for their own reasons, would prefer to have a successful outcome to the audit, so they may 'dress' up what they show or tell you. The skeleton map helps to identify the flesh devoid of its dressing as it asks for specifics.

• I spend more time observing and listening
• Can talk to an individual about everything they do or follow a given process flow as I can add evidence as it occurs rather than having to follow a specific agenda/approach. If needs be, I can chop and change my approach to the audit on the day depending on what I find.
• Able to delve into a specific area of interest then come out, see the big picture and resume 'normal' activities
• Keeps me on track. Let's me know when I am deviating/going outwith the scope of the audit as there are no bones to attach the flesh to.
• If there are no bones to attach the flesh to, this could also indicate that there are gaps in the associated procedures.
• Audit goes more smoothly as the auditees see that I am prepared. I come across as more professional and knowledgeable in what I am doing, and also in what the auditees should be doing.

So that's my ‘anatomical’ approach to audit preparation. Develop a skeleton framework and add the flesh as you discover it.

This approach applies not just to audits but to any activity where you can identify a framework and need to identify if reality adequately fits the framework. So you can use it for inspections, reviews, assessments etc. For example when people review a document for approval they more often than not read what is there and assess what is present. But what about what isn’t there that should be there? A skeleton map of what the document should contain then fleshed out with the document content can significantly help you identifying such gaps.

I hope you found this article of interest. As ever, if you have any comments or queries, please don’t hesitate to ask Gordon.