Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Managing a project visually with Microsoft Project and MindGenius

In October's article, I demonstrated how to manage a project using MindGenius’s Resource and Gantt views. Small projects and individual task lists can be easily managed using a mind map, however, as projects grow in size and complexity, advanced scheduling tools like Microsoft Project are used. Fortunately, MindGenius integrates well with Microsoft Project and helps project managers analyze complex project schedules.

Microsoft Project and MindGenius both produce useful Gantt charts to depict the project timeline. However, when reporting status, it is helpful to provide a project status snapshot using a color coded work break down structure. Using a color coded graph to identify late and at risk tasks, provides a quick status at a glance. Figure 1 displays the color coded work breakdown structure that identifies late and at risk tasks for a project schedule.

Figure 1. Graphical WBS
Developing a one page status graphic is easy using MindGenius. The following 6 steps will show you how to import the work breakdown structure, find troubled tasks and correctly color code them based on project status.

Step 1. Import the Project Schedule into MindGenius

a. In MindGenius, select File – Import – Microsoft Project
b. Browse to a Microsoft Project file and click Ok
c. The Import Microsoft Project options dialogue box appears (Figure 2)
d. Click Ok

Figure 2. Import Microsoft Project options

MindGenius will also create tasks in Outlook however for larger project schedules, I would not import the tasks into Outlook. The import options allow you to select the types of Microsoft Project data that can be imported as well as defaulting the MindGenius Gantt view. Displaying the Gantt view automatically is a personal preference and for this tutorial, I prefer to use the default mind map view.

Step 2. Change the format to a work breakdown structure format

The initial map will be imported as a mind map in the Output Tree – Top down format (Figure 3). This format is useful for brainstorming but for project managers prefer a graphical work breakdown structure view.

Figure 3. Default Map

To create a work breakdown structure, click on Map Layouts (Figure 4) and select the Affinity layout.

Figure 4. Map Layouts

Step 3. Display the level 1 structure

a. Select Display Levels and select level 1 to collapse all the nodes to top work breakdown structure nodes.

Hint: The shortcut key Shift-Ctrl-1 will also quickly collapse or expand the map based on the corresponding number. Pressing Shift-Ctrl-2 will expand the work breakdown structure to 2 levels from the root node.

Figure 5. Work Breakdown Structure format

For large projects, project managers can use the Map Explorer view to traverse the mind map and focus on relevant nodes and task. This is helpful when examining a specific set of tasks similar to collapsing levels in Microsoft Project.

Step 4. Identify the Late Tasks using Task Quick Filter

Similar to the previous tutorial, use the task filters to identify any late tasks.

a. Select Analyze
b. Set the “With actions/tasks scheduled to be completed” option to Overdue
c. Select Hide non-matches
d. Click apply filter

Figure 6 Quick Filter

The mind map filter will identify all the tasks that are late and need to be updated. The project manager can also create a Resource Map based on the filter to identify late tasks by resource.

Step 5. Meet with the team to understand the true status of these late tasks

Using the filtered map (Figure 7), the project manager can record relevant notes against each task, update the percent complete and adjust the forecasted end date. By clicking on the Pencil icon, the Note Editor will appear and additional meeting notes can be documented against the specific task.

Figure 7. Reviewing late tasks with the team

Based on the updated mind map, the project manager can update the Microsoft Project schedule using the notes from the meeting. My preference is to update the project schedule manually although project managers could export the mind map and overwrite the Microsoft Project file. I recommend updating the Microsoft Project file manually and use the visual map to facilitate the status meeting and report status. When the mind map is exported to Microsoft Project, it creates Must Start On constraints. As a best practice, project managers should have dynamic project schedules that are free of schedule constraints.

Step 6. Color code the late and at risk tasks

Based on the team status meeting, the next step is to color code the late and at risk tasks using the Format – Branch Fill command. For project status reporting to executive management, I include the color coded work breakdown structure in the status deck before the detailed status report. Late tasks are marked red, at risk tasks or tasks that have issues are marked yellow and the rest of the map is left the default color. Project managers may choose to color completed nodes blue or on-track nodes as green based on the amount of data in the map.

To color code a task:
a. Select Format – Branch Fill and pick the desired color
b. The node color will change
c. Continue coloring nodes for each relevant node in the map (Figure 8)
d. Once the map is colored for status, select File – Export – Image to export the map for your status report deck

Figure 8. Graphical Project Status Work Breakdown Structure
Once you start working with MindGenius, you’ll appreciate how well MindGenius imports and exports across a variety of file formats. Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Microsoft Project, Outlook and even Microsoft Visio formats are supported in addition to images, PDFs, HTML and other mind mapping formats. By importing the Microsoft Project file into a visual format, project managers can communicate status quickly and visually identify problems in the project schedule. Thinking and communicating visually helps improve understanding and delivery. Instead of reading through several pages of a status report, managers can quickly understand the project status visually.

Download your free trial of MindGenius today, start importing your Microsoft Project schedule and start managing visually!

To download a template with step by step instructions on how to manage your project with MindGenius, visit: http://www.biggerplate.com/mindmaps/bv0dcjuD/manage-a-project-visually-with-mindgenius-and-ms-project.

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

Why is Continuing Professional Development Important?

After qualifying in your chosen field it may seem that your mission has been accomplished. But after initial training and qualifications are completed there can be a tendency to sit back and assume that additional experience required will be developed from on the job experience alone.

Continuing professional development is important because it ensures you continue to be competent in your profession. It is an on-going process and continues throughout a professional’s career.

The ultimate outcome of well-planned continuing professional development is that it safeguards the public, the employer, the professional and the professional’s career.

Well-crafted and delivered continuing professional development is important because it delivers benefits to the individual, their profession and the public.

  • CPD ensures your capabilities keep pace with the current standards of others in the same field.
  • CPD ensures that you maintain and enhance the knowledge and skills you need to deliver a professional service to your customers, clients and the community.
  • CPD ensures that you and your knowledge stay relevant and up to date. You are more aware of the changing trends and directions in your profession. The pace of change is probably faster than it’s ever been – and this is a feature of the new normal that we live and work in. If you stand still you will get left behind, as the currency of your knowledge and skills becomes out-dated.
  • CPD helps you continue to make a meaningful contribution to your team. You become more effective in the workplace. This assists you to advance in your career and move into new positions where you can lead, manage, influence, coach and mentor others.
  • CPD helps you to stay interested and interesting. Experience is a great teacher, but it does mean that we tend to do what we have done before. Focused CPD opens you up to new possibilities, new knowledge and new skill areas.
  •  CPD can deliver a deeper understanding of what it means to be a professional, along with a greater appreciation of the implications and impacts of your work.
  • CPD helps advance the body of knowledge and technology within your profession
  • CPD can lead to increased public confidence in individual professionals and their profession as a whole
  • Depending on the profession – CPD contributes to improved protection and quality of life, the environment, sustainability, property and the economy. This particularly applies to high risk areas, or specialised practice areas which may be difficult to monitor on a case by case basis. The importance of continuing professional development should not be underestimated – it is a career-long obligation for practicing professionals.
One industry with a strong CPD network is engineering, for more information on CPD requirements for Engineers around the world, visit:
Continuing professional development should be engaging and fun too and MindGenius partner, Continuing Professional Development, have achieved this by developing online CPD courses and incorporating MindGenius into them, have a look at these examples to see what that looks like:
Vivian Kloosterman, CPD, said: “Over the years of managing and leading professionals at all levels in our consulting organisation, one of the most significant barriers to accomplishing agreed project outcomes was poor planning. This was a real stumbling block for even the smartest and best qualified of our team. When a project is complicated, and they usually are, there was a tendency to just leap in and get started because, on the face of it, that was the line of least resistance. “At least I’m making a start and getting something done!”

Trying to plan a project in the correct sequence of linear steps is not an easy task. This is where MindGenius comes into its own and for this reason we use it to support our online courses. It is particularly relevant for our Project Management courses and courses such as Stakeholder Analysis and Risk Management. Its powerful mind mapping techniques allow you to put structure around all of that noise and complexity. You can do it quickly too, so that when your team is impatient to move on, they can - but with a structured plan in place. I wish we had been able to use this software and its capabilities years ago.”

Read more about CPD at http://continuingprofessionaldevelopment.org/why-is-cpd-important/

Discovery - the key to survival for Financial Advisors

In the UK the FSA introduced new regulations for Financial Advisors called the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) on the 31st December 2012. The main aim of RDR is to ensure that the Financial Services industry returns to being a consulting and advisory service, based on fees rather than commission, and the regulators hope it will improve the reputation of financial advice and advisors. A dramatic impact on the industry is predicted and casualties expected. How is your implementation of RDR going?

Whenever a new way of working is introduced it can be difficult to find the time to work on what’s required and implement the required changes when you have current projects to work on. With new legislation to decipher, further qualifications required, and new policies or ways of working to put into practice, it can feel like an uphill battle to keep on top of things and this seems to be the case for many people and businesses implementing RDR.

Ad+, a team of chartered accountants and business consultants who are one of only 41 practices to be included in “The UK’s best accountancy services” used MindGenius mind mapping software to help them plan and prepare for RDR, and also see MindGenius as a solution for post RDR life. Matt Donnelly, Managing Director and Founding Partner strongly believes that better client engagement, through effective questioning and listening techniques, is the only way to drive the sales process and ensure identification of opportunities for both the clients and for businesses, especially in the post RDR landscape.

Matt believes the Fact Find stage of the process (fact find, research, advice and opportunities) needs to be transformed into an engaging Discovery style session that really gets to the heart of what clients are looking for in life, exploring things such as retirement plans, how they would like to look after their family members and charitable contributions as well as the hard facts of the client’s current situation.

MindGenius have put together a short video on a Discovery style session. You can view it here. This process is generally based on a template approach that balances the hard and soft fact finding process to find out; where we are, where we want to be and how we will get there. For the session to be a success it must engage clients in the process; effective facilitation and management when using the map template can ensure the session is interactive and keeps the client visually engaged. This results in a financial plan where the client understands how the plan works and the advisor is clear on the opportunities it presents.

Sample mind map financial plan
Fig 1: A sample Financial Plan from a Discovery Session
Whether RDR is relevant to you or not, this discovery approach is worth introducing to your client engagement.

MindGenius offers a free 30 day trial. Find out more at www.mindgenius.com/FinancialServices.aspx

Hoshin Plans for Vision Deployment

Mind Maps are basically tree diagrams that can take on a variety of forms. After World War 2, Japan used Tree charts (called Hoshin Plans) as a top down management planning tool to create, drive and implement the biggest quality revolution the world has ever seen. Hoshin Plans, which are Mind Maps, were elevated in Japan to one of the 7 most important Management Tools. They were used for annual strategic planning for entire companies and at lower levels for department level strategic planning and individual project management, tracking and execution. That detailed level of planning was seldom seen in the western world at the time and it is still considered to be a best practice method of planning today. Mind Mapping software offers very user-friendly and rapid creation and modification of the Plans, which was one of the original barriers that blocked its widespread acceptance in the western world. This article will give the basics on Hoshin Planning and show they can be created with MindGenius Mind Mapping software. 

History of the Quality Revolution in Japan 
It is undisputed that Japan created the biggest quality revolution that the world has probably ever seen. This quality revolution happened after World War 2. Lean and Total Quality Management were the top level initiatives that were used to create this quality transformation. At the core of such successes seen in Japanese companies are a variety of tools and techniques they used. In Japan, some of their main tools were summarized and popularized as:  

  • 7 Management Tools 
  • 7 Quality Tools 
  • 7 forms of Waste 
The number 7 was often used to narrow the focus of efforts and not over-complicate attempts to drive quality improvements, which could drive confusion and frustration amongst employees. Without applying the 7 Management Tools, Japan's success would have been a failure. Deming and others were instrumental in driving the quality revolution in Japan. Deming's first big activities and presentations in Japan were to its management. He convinced them to pursue a disciplined approach to make dramatic quality transformations a reality. After the great successes of Japan, the western world was very eager to copy their successes but they often ignored the detailed work required to attain such success. Many short cuts were attempted, which had limited successes or failed. The failed attempts almost always avoided the 7 Management Tools because they seemed too analytical and technical for western-styles of management to accept. What resulted in the western world is a method of "Cherry Picking" of certain Lean and Quality Tools used in Japan that would be applied in the West. 

Under-appreciated Hoshin Planning in the West 
A good example of cherry-picking certain tools from Japan and avoiding others is the Hoshin Plan Tree Diagram. This tool was very slowly adopted in the West but it is still, even today, rather unpopular. The Deming Quality Award was started in Japan in 1950 to recognize progressive companies who departed from traditional and ineffective ways of management to the successful management style known as TQM (Total Quality Management). All companies who won the Deming Award in the 70’s and 80’s reported that Hoshin Planning was at the center of their management style. 

The Hoshin Plan is often considered to be too detailed, difficult to create or use. It was often difficult and time consuming to construct and modify these Plans in popular software tools such as Excel and PowerPoint. I will make the bold statement that if user-friendly software like MindGenius was available when Hoshin Planning was first discovered in the West, the widespread use of this Planning tool might have been more popular. I say this because this powerful and effective Plan is extremely easy and fast to create and edit with MindGenius. 

Employee Empowerment versus Management Planning 
Japanese-style Employee Empowerment is also a widely misunderstood concept outside of Japan. Too often, it is thought that employee empowerment can replace top management planning, direction and vision setting. However, empowered activities must be in line with management's top level Vision, Goals and Objectives, not replace them to avoid uncoordinated chaos. Not every company can afford to pursue Six Sigma quality levels targeting only 3.4 defects per million products produced. Big problems can arise when the void of management vision and direction is filled in with the vision of quasi-empowered employees who invent their own agenda for the company, which is not coordinated with other employees nor management. 

Hoshin Plan Basics 
As shown below, such Plans can be used for top level management strategic planning and all the way down to individual project management, planning and execution. 

A Hoshin Plan should incorporate 5 levels of detailed work breakdown structure as shown below. At the detailed task level, personal task assignments, due dates and red, yellow and green color codes for the status are recommended for a good Hoshin plan.

Here are some explanations of the terms used in the above graph, which are used for Hoshin Planning. 

  • Vision: A mental image what the desired future should look like 
  • Goal: The full set of top level targets required to support the Vision
  • Objectives: The full set of stated intentions required to support all of the Goals 
  • Action Plans: The full set of actions required to support all of the Objectives 
  • Detailed Tasks: The full set of individual tasks required to support all of the Action Plans 

Note that the words "full set" is used often in the above list. In a good Hoshin Plan, each term to the right of the Vision should include a full set of exhaustive intentions and activities required to support the term to the upper left of it. What follows is a template for a 5-level Hoshin Plan created in MindGenius software with 5 levels, with added information in the far right branch for responsible resource, detailed task completion rate, start and completion dates and visual color codes for the detailed task status (red, yellow or green). This example is partially visualized, only showing the details for Goal 1. Red denotes that the plan is behind schedule. Green means that it is on schedule. 

All entries on a Hoshin should be full sentences with action verbs and nouns that are fully understandable by anyone reading the plan. At least 2 goals should be created for a vision statement and at least 2 objectives for each goal statement and so on, all the way down to the detailed task level. Any gaps in the tree down to the detailed task level would be a sign of a plan that is not supported by real actions in the organization. 

The following Hoshin Plan template shows what a 3 Goal Hoshin Plan could look like. The number of sub-branches on a real Hoshin Plan will vary for each plan but they can be easily created and modified in the Mind Mapping software. The power of the logic in a Hoshin Plan is that the creator is motivated to ensure that each goal, objective, task and detailed task are supported with real resourced activities and individuals. When such support is absent, it becomes very visually obvious that the plan is not supported by all of the detailed activities and resources required to make the activity successful. 

The next Hoshin plan shows a company vision that is at risk of being realized, due to gaps in the plan and the amount of red for those detailed actions that are documented. Such gaps in the plan are visually apparent on a Hoshin Plan. Other methods of strategic and project planning do not visually highlight inadequacies in the plan as a Hoshin Plan does. 

Hoshin Plans are very detailed and useful company vision deployment tools that can be used to ensure that all functional departments have their goals aligned with each other to meet the larger vision of the company. These plans can also be used at the department and individual project level. The true test if a Hoshin Plan is correctly completed is quite visual in nature. If there are gaps in the plan down to the detailed task level and if resources are not assigned to detailed tasks or the status is red, the plan is at risk of supporting the vision of the company or project. Too many current project management techniques do not have this automatic visual feature to ensure that a project plan is robust or not. 

About the Author 
David Patrishkoff is President of E3 Extreme Enterprise Efficiency® LLC. He has held various worldwide senior executive positions in the past and has trained 3,000+ professionals, worldwide from over 55 different industries in Lean, Six Sigma and other advanced problem solving techniques. He is a proven business turnaround specialist who resolves “Mission Impossible” situations for organizations on a regular basis. Visit his website for training, coaching and consulting services: www.eeefficiency.com. 

MindGenius and Connect Distribution Join Forces to Introduce MindGenius to CEE

MindGenius, the leading business mapping software developer and Connect Distribution are delighted to announce their partnership which allows them to offer localized help and support in CEE.

MindGenius has been producing mind mapping software for business and education since 2001 that allows users to capture, visualize and manage their information. MindGenius is the only mind mapping software tool that focuses on aiding key business processes and allows organisations to specifically delivers business value in activities such as project planning, brainstorming, strategic planning, task management and information mapping.

Connect Distribution Sp. z o.o., a company founded in 1998, is a specialized distributor of IT solutions with added value who deliver highest quality, world class software solutions backed up with consulting and technical support, for both the Polish and Eastern European markets.

Krzysztof Szubert, General Manager at Connect Distribution said: “Cooperation with MindGenius expands our product portfolio of mind mapping solutions to now include a tool that is more intuitive and a little cheaper than others in the market. We hope that MindGenius products will answer the requirements of small and medium companies, which are the majority of our customers in the CEE region.”

Derek Jack, Director, MindGenius said: “By partnering with Connect Distribution we have the opportunity to introduce MindGenius into the territory knowing we have solid local support, experience and knowledge there. MindGenius is one of the most cost effective software tools for delivering productivity improvements in business and we look forward to working with Connect Distribution to introduce it to their customers."

Find our more about MindGenius at www.mindgenius.com.

Managing a Project with MindGenius Resources and Gantt Views

If you study PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), you’ll find every project management process is supported by a variety of tools and techniques. Unless the project management office prescribes a specific tool, the project manager typically selects the best tool to manage the project. For project schedule management, the project manager may use Microsoft Project, sticky notes and index cards or visual management tools. Project managers can choose from a never ending supply of software tools, however, it is important to understand the best tool for the job. Large projects may use complex scheduling tools and smaller projects can benefit from a simple task list. The best tools are adaptable and can support small or large projects without overwhelming the project manager.

MindGenius provides a flexible and creative approach to managing a project entirely within MindGenius or integrating with Microsoft Project. In my previous blog post, I shared how to use MindGenius to create a project schedule starting from brainstorming ideas to structuring a formal WBS and building a reliable project schedule. Depending on the size of the project, project managers may export the project into Microsoft Project and refine it or they can manage the project within MindGenius itself. This article provides an overview on how you can manage a small project using MindGenius resource maps and Gantt chart views.

Figure 1 displays a sample work breakdown structure for a website development project. The project schedule had been developed using the 6 Steps from Scope to Schedule tutorial. MindGenius provides two key views and filters to manage this project using either the Resource Map or the Gantt view to update the project schedule.

Figure 1. Medical Call Center Website

Technique 1: Using the Task Filters and Resource Map

Prior to a status meeting, it is useful to identify all the tasks that need to be updated for the time period. It is also useful to organize the tasks by resource so the project manager can quickly obtain updates easily. Using the following steps, the project manager can filter and organize the work breakdown structure for easy updating.

1. Select the Gantt tab
2. Click on the Quick Filter button and select Completed Date and select the Completion Overdue option
3. Click on the Hide Non-Matches icon (marked in orange)

Figure 2. Hide Non Matches
4. The map will filter the overdue tasks

Figure 3. Filtered Tasks

5. Double Click on a specific task to open the Action dialogue box and enter a percent complete.

Figure 4. Action dialogue box

6. Repeat for each of the remaining tasks. The project manager can adjust the start date and completion date based on the team member feedback. Based on the new project dates, the map will filter the relevant tasks based on the filtered criteria.

Figure 5. Updated Filtered Map

In larger maps, it is common to have many tasks due within a given time period. By using the Resource map, the project manager can quickly organize the tasks by assigned resource. This often makes it easier to obtain updates as each team member can provide progress updates.

To create the resource map:

1. Select Tasks – Resource Map
2. Select the Entire Map option and click Ok
3. Using the Map Explorer, click on a resource name to filter tasks assigned to each resource
4. Apply the Completion Overdue quick filter

Figure 6 identifies all the tasks that are due and assigned to the selected resource.

Figure 6. Resource Map and Completion Overdue Filter

By clicking on each resource’s name in the Map Explorer, the project manager can quickly update all the overdue tasks assigned to each specific resource. Prior to the project status meeting, the project manager can create these different views and distribute them to the project team for quick updating. The project manager can also display the complete resource map and navigate by each assigned resource. The visual nature of the map helps project teams focus the immediate tasks and additional notes can be easily added to the map.

Technique 2: Using the Gantt View

The second option is to use the traditional Gantt view to manage the project schedule, update tasks and view the direct impacts against the project timeline.

To view the Gantt View:

1. Select Tasks – Gantt View
2. The Gantt view will be displayed with the tasks on the left and Gantt chart on the right
3. Apply the Completion Overdue filter by selecting the Quick Filter option (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Filtered Gantt Chart View

The grey bars and tasks are disabled in the Gantt chart view as they don’t meet the selected Quick Filter criteria. Project managers can adjust the various filters to identify completed tasks, late tasks and tasks missing assigned resources. The quick filters help to visually identify concerns within the project schedule while maintaining the complete schedule within the project context.

The project manager can click on any of the tasks and provide task updates similar to Figure 4 in the previous technique. Any changes to the project schedule will be reflected in the Gantt chart. If the project manager wants to switch back to the mind map view, all of the updates in the Gantt chart view will appear in the graphical mind map view.

MindGenius provides useful views across the core set of project data, supports visual planning and provides traditional project management views to effectively manage a project. Thinking visually helps project teams communicate better and understand complex topics including detailed project schedules. These visual techniques are just one approach to managing a project within MindGenius. In the next tutorial, I’ll show you how to manage the project schedule by integrating with Microsoft Project.

If you’re not a MindGenius customer yet, download the free trial and follow along with these project management techniques.

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

Jim Mather to represent MindGenius at Biggerplate Unplugged

Biggerplate, one of the largest communities of mind map users in the world, are hosting a series of “Biggerplate Unplugged” events with the aim to inform and inspire the mind mapping community, and provide a focal point for individuals and organisations to meet and discuss developments and innovation within the mind mapping world.

MindGenius will be represented at the London event by Jim Mather, Chairman of sister company Gael Ltd. Jim served as a Member of the Scottish Parliament from 2003 until 2011. In 2007, he was appointed Minister for Enterprise, Energy & Tourism: a role he served until he stepped down from front line politics last year.

During Jim’s Keynote session, he will aim to discuss the question: “Is there justification for giving mind mapping software mainstream status?” Jim believes that mind mapping software has the ability to help to keep people purposefully connected and make tangible progress and we must now talk up those, who, internally or with external alliances, have used such systems to simultaneously be more competitive and more collaborative in order to make the message more widely known. Jim will also share his experience of using this approach in Government.

The London event will be held on Thursday, January 31, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM (GMT) at the Hub Westminster, SW1Y 4TE, and will offer the opportunity to bring together mind mapping software users, developers, bloggers and trainers to explore trends and innovations in the world of mind mapping and will include Keynote sessions, expert speakers, and roundtable discussions.

Early bird tickets are available until October 31st and space is limited, so book your place now, or find out more at: http://biggerplatelondon.eventbrite.com/#  

Check out the MindGenius groups on Biggerplate: http://www.biggerplate.com/groups/mindgenius.   You will find Resources for Project Managers, Financial Planners and those in HR as well as general business and personal maps.

MindGenius Perpetual Licensing

In these tough economic times, MindGenius is committed to being a cost effective mind mapping software solution for businesses, individuals and those in education.

Our pricing model remains perpetual which means there are no costly monthly subscription fees.

Our list price is highly competitive, particularly given the amount of business focused functionality in MindGenius. For information on pricing visit our website.

MindGenius can also import other mind mapping files meaning you can easily use maps created in other tools* in MindGenius.

The 30 day free trial is fully functional and no credit card is required to access the download.

Download a 30 day free trial now.

* MindGenius can currently import MindManager files

E3 & MindGenius Partnership  

MindGenius Ltd and E3 Extreme Enterprise Efficiency are pleased to announce a strategic partnership between their two companies.

E3 is a worldwide business training and consulting firm founded in 2001. They are based in Florida, USA. E3 has helped companies in over 55 different industries worldwide to solve their most serious problems through management and employee training, coaching and empowering highly focused teams.

E3 specializes in adding fun and smiles to business improvement efforts, which can dramatically increase the engagement levels of employees. This technique is also known as Gamification. E3 incorporates Six Sigma, Lean and their own Enterprise-Wide Change-Management techniques to help transform ordinary organizations to the extraordinary. Their specialty is the high speed resolution of high profile, "Mission Impossible" million dollar-plus issues, without laying off employees.

The purpose of this partnership is to integrate the advantages of MindGenius software in E3's new Business Transformation War Games™ (aka: BT War Games) Change-Management methodology, which drives enterprise-wide efficiency, innovation and productivity improvements. E3 chose MindGenius software for its user-friendliness, unique ability to enhance group brainstorming events, flexibility, integrate graphics, hyperlinks, assessment scores and key project metrics into Mind Maps.

BT War Games integrates Gamification techniques in business improvement efforts to couple serious business improvement efforts with fun and smiles. This has been proven to help create paradigm shifts, expose taboo-talk rules and diplomatically expose deeply imbedded cultural inefficiencies. BT War Games drives organizational culture change aimed at addressing undisciplined MBAs (Management Behaviors and Attitudes), inefficient work habits and everything in-between.

E3 mapped out the entire required transformation journey for organizations using MindGenius Software. All of the required efforts to prepare, practice, plan and actually implement an entire organizational transformation has been mapped out and documented on mind map templates. After training in BT War Game Techniques, clients can use the templates to drive enterprise improvement for an entire business or one department or key business process at a time.

E3's Business Transformation War Games™ uses a unique deck of cards in many ways. These cards highlight the 54 organizational flaws that keep repeating themselves throughout history. David Patrishkoff, President of E3, discovered and categorized these 54 inefficiencies during his multi-year research.

These 54 flaws can be sorted into 5 major elements of Cascade effects, which are called Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks and Jokers based on their destructive power within an organization (See illustration below). These 5 elements of Cascade Effects Analysis seeks to identify the work environment, cultural and management behaviors and attitudes, which contribute to business issues. When the rank, number and intensity level of the 54 inefficiencies in business and government reaches a certain critical mass, they create destructive Cascade Effects that can explain all major business and government failures and disasters, past present and future. E3 uses Cascade Effect Analysis to supplement advanced root cause analysis techniques like correlation and regression analysis.

Some examples of how E3 is using MindGenius software to create Mind Maps are shown below. This first illustration shows the top level 3-point BT War Games methodology, which is mapped out at several branch levels in the software.
The next illustration shows just some of the many branches on the E3 Mind Maps, which incorporates illustrations, assessment scores, action plans, scheduling and resource details and much more. The auto-formatting mode of the MindGenius software allows E3 to focus on the required details and planning of the work to be done and not worry about formatting issues, which could take up large amounts of time for complex projects.
David Patrishkoff, President, E3 Extreme Enterprise Efficiency said:
"E3 is very pleased to have partnered with MindGenius. The partnership allows us to expand our dedication to high quality and enlightening graphical displays, brainstorming techniques and the resolution of complicated problems with the use of science, information analysis, data analysis and user-friendly software. This effort helps us to draw fast and accurate conclusions for our clients and solve their most difficult problems with the least amount of effort. MindGenius truly helps us to work smarter and not harder."

E3’s most popular consulting and training services are based on Lean Manufacturing, Lean Office, Kaizen event facilitation, Lean Six Sigma and Design for Six Sigma and advanced innovation techniques. Visit the E3 website at www.eeefficiency.com to read more on their doing-it-right the first time consulting, training, problem solving and total company optimization services.

Register for a Free Skills Workshop

For the last two month’s MindGenius have been running free online Skills Workshops for all of our maintenance paying customers.

The webinar sessions offer free training on MindGenius on a variety of topics and the opportunity to ask our Product Expert any questions you may have and are designed to ensure you continue to get value from your investment in our products and services. September’s session takes place on the 26th at 4pm, GMT, 11am EDT and is on Brainstorming with MindGenius, looking specifically at mapping techniques to aid brainstorming, and using the inbuilt MindGenius Brainstorm mode. This will enable brainstorming to become an effective, every day technique in your organisation.

The sessions will be hosted by Jamie MacDonald, Head of Client Development, a highly experienced trainer, facilitator and coach who has over 20 years experience in training, development and business improvement.

Here’s the schedule for the following months:
Tasks and Actions with MindGenius, 17th October 4pm:
• Mapping Tasks and Actions
• Prioritising
• Allocating Task Ownership
• Monitoring and Managing Tasks and Actions

Project Planning with MindGenius, 14th November 4pm
• Mapping Work Breakdown Structures/ Project Stages
• Tasks and Activities
• Allocating ownership
• Scheduling a Project
• Integrated Gantt View

Presentations with MindGenius, 12th December 4pm
• Planning a Presentation
• Using MindGenius to present
• Exporting to PowerPoint
• Presentation Mode

The sessions last for no more than an hour. Maintenance paying customers can register now by contacting us at webinar@mindgenius.com.

If you have any ideas on topics you would like to see us cover in the Skills workshops, let us know in the comments below.

20% discount on MindGenius with CPD

New MindGenius Partner Continuing Professional Development, are offering a 20% discount on MindGenius Mind Mapping Software when you register and purchase one of their online courses.

Continuing Professional Development was created to deliver practical online CPD courses that are engaging, interactive and relevant and courses include:
  • Defining Project Goals and Objectives Course
  • Stakeholder Identification and Analysis Course
  • Project Management Essentials – Part 1
  • Risk Management Course
  • Communications Planning Course
  • Work Breakdown Structure (coming soon)
  • Project Work Schedule (coming soon)
Vivian Kloosterman, CPD, said: “Our own experience with MindGenius Mind Mapping Software shows that it is particularly relevant to many of our courses and we are happy to offer this discount to enable our customers to experience the benefits of MindGenius for themselves."

Visit their site now to find out more on this special offer.

Adieu, Farewell

A sad day, at least for me. This is my last Ask Gordon article.

Back in January 2011 I started to write Ask Gordon articles and in that time we've covered quite a variety of subjects.

It was an interesting challenge to communicate to others the different types of activities MindGenius helped me perform. It has been an interesting journey writing these articles, made all the more enjoyable by being able to use MindGenius to create them.

It was also an eye opener for me as I began to realise just how much MindGenius has become an essential part of my life, both business and personal. It is now second nature for me to use it. I do it automatically without thinking. It has become ingrained in how I do things.

It's amazing how, using the very basics of MindGenius - just type and return, that you, your brain and the computer seem to connect and all your thoughts, including ones you didn't know you had, just flow out and get recorded. It totally eliminates any fear of a blank page. Your eyes feed your brain and it sets to work. Even if you don't have a clue what to say or do, a way forward usually emerges, and sooner rather than later.

Of course MindGenius has lots of tools to help you make the most out of the thoughts and ideas that you have generated, but the value I cherish is the ability to record and make sense of my thoughts.

I'm sure that you have guessed by now that I am a big fan of MindGenius. It does the business for me. However like most things in life, you only get out what you put in. It's the same with MindGenius. It will not generate the content, you will. But it makes the task so much simpler and enjoyable.

You can take a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. People often need to see the benefits that they can get from using different approaches. They need a stimulus. I have tried to give you food for thought on different ways that you might apply MindGenius to a variety of tasks and challenges that you may face. If they have encouraged you to use MindGenius more and in different ways, then we have been successful and you have benefited.

My colleague Kelly asked me what my favourite articles were. I felt for a moment I was on Desert Island Disks. My top three would be (in no particular order):

Biggest benefit of MindGenius This addressed the key benefit you get from MindGenius, how it stimulates your creativity and allows you to record your thoughts and ideas in a visible form, make sense of them and share them with others.
Problem Solving Another day, another problem. That’s life and problem solving is an essential survival skill. This article provides you with an easy to use, effective method of problem solving using MindGenius
Domain Research We live in the era of the information Revolution. The internet has given us access to immense amounts of information. So when you need to research, collate and understand information (and you will) then this article gives you an insight into how to do it.

At the end of the August I retire to enjoy the fruits of my labours. Safe to say I have everything in hand. My retirement plan has been developed and implemented using MindGenius. But the map is for my eyes only!

I will still be using MindGenius in my retirement, there are lots of things to do and plan. Perhaps I should write a book called "MindGenius for retirees"? I will also be joining the new Mind Mapping in Business Linkedin Group just to keep abreast of how people are using MindGenius and gain from the experience of others. You can still teach an old dog new tricks.

So I wish you all the best for the future and enjoy MindGenius. Gordon

Join our Mind Mapping in Business LinkedIn Group

MindGenius have launched a new group, Mind Mapping in Business, on the social network, Linkedin. This group is for professionals who are actively or considering using mind mapping software in business.

We understand the importance of maintaining communication with our users and are constantly looking for more interactive ways to keep in touch. This group offers another opportunity for our users to submit feedback, share tips and provide success stories with other professionals who are focused on utilizing mind mapping software to improve productivity, internal & external communication and all other aspects of business.

Join the Mind Mapping in Business group now.

If you do not have a Linkedin profile you can sign up for free via this link

Catch up on articles including ‘7 tips on how to create the perfect project plan in project management’ here or ‘5 top tips for effective meetings’ here.

6 Steps from Project Scope to Schedule with MindGenius by Andrew Makar

In today’s competitive environment, project teams are pressured to deliver projects faster while maintaining quality. During a project, the team defines the project scope and develops a project schedule to determine project duration and costs. The process of translating project scope into an actionable task can be a tedious one. Project managers are often looking for accelerators to improve project delivery and lessen the administrative burden. MindGenius solves this problem by providing an easy transition from project scope to an actionable project schedule in 6 easy steps.

Step 1. Brainstorm the project scope

Conducting a brainstorming session to gather requirements and organizing the ideas into a mind map is an excellent way to define project scope. In Figure 1, MindGenius was used to collect and organize project requirements for a training website. Developing a new website will require course catalog content, payment methods, web-based courses and the underlying technical architecture. Sales and marketing plans also need to be implemented. MindGenius takes the results of a brainstorming session and easily organizes thoughts and ideas to help project teams think visually.

Fig. 1 Brainstorm Project Scope

Formal project management organizations often use a work breakdown structure (WBS) to define the scope. Using MindGenius, project managers can switch from the organic brainstorm map diagram to a structured work breakdown structure format with a click on the button.

In MindGenius, Select Home - Map Layouts and select the affinity map layout to change the map layout (Figure 2).

Fig. 2 WBS
Step 2. Assign task dependencies in the Gantt Chart view

The next step is to assign dependencies between the tasks in the work breakdown structure. Select Tasks - Gantt View from the MindGenius navigation bar. The mind map will turn into the classic Gantt Chart. In the Predecessors column, enter the task number of the preceding tasks. The Gantt Chart will adjust based on the task dependencies (Figure 3).

Fig. 3 Gantt Chart Sequencing
Tasks can be added, removed and moved throughout the task outline. Any change to the tasks in this view will also be reflected in the mind map view. MindGenius creatively allows project managers to work with the data in the view that makes the most sense for the job. Users don’t have to worry about data loss as the various views use the same underlying set of data.

Step 3. Estimate task duration

Once tasks have been defined and put into the proper sequence, the next step is to estimate the duration of the tasks. Task durations are expressed in either days or hours. MindGenius also supports effort based estimates using the Work field in the Tasks navigation menu. Double clicking on any task will allow the user to adjust a variety of task parameters include start dates, finish dates, milestones and costs.

Fig. 4 Duration Estimation

Step 4. Assign resources to tasks

MindGenius enables project managers to define their project team in the tool and assign them to specific tasks. Double click on the Resource column and select Edit Resource List. Figure 5 provides a dialogue box for the project manager to add team members to the project.

Fig. 5 Define the project team
Once the team is defined, the team member can be assigned to a specific task by clicking on the check box (Figure 6). Multiple team members can be added although a best practice is to define the tasks at a detailed level so only one team member is assigned. This allows the project manager to track the specific work and team member progress throughout the project.

Fig. 6 Assign team members to tasks

In Figure 7, the project schedule has team members assigned to each task. MindGenius appends each name to the Gantt Chart for easy tracking.

Fig. 7 Assign Resources in Gantt View
The project manager can switch back to the mind map view by selecting the Gantt - Return to Map button. The result is the WBS view with assigned resources, date icons and progress indicators (Figure 8).

Fig. 8 Resource Assignment Map View

Step 5. Create a Resource Map and filter for Resource Assignments

The next step demonstrates MindGenius’s unique ability to create a resource mind map view of project team assignments. Once the project schedule is developed, project team members need to know their specific tasks. By selecting the Task - Create Resource Map button, MindGenius will create a mind map that organizes the tasks by resource. Using the Map Explorer in the left window pane, the project manager navigates and filters the map by resource to see resource tasks.

Fig. 9 Resource Map

Each individual resource map can be exported and distributed to each team member. By capturing the assignments visually, project team members have an easier time understanding their full scope of work.

Step 6. Export to Microsoft Project for detailed schedule development (optional)

If this is a small project, the team can continue to use MindGenius to manage the schedule. If it is a larger project that requires detailed scheduling and refinement, the entire mind map can be exported to Microsoft Project.

Select Export - Microsoft Project from the navigation bar and the MindGenius map will be exported to Microsoft Project. MindGenius was built to integrate intelligently with Microsoft Project rather than replace Microsoft Project entirely. Task data including milestones, start, finish dates, resources and costs will all easily export to the Microsoft Project schedule.

Fig. 10 MS Project Export

In 6 easy steps, project managers can define project scope and generate a meaningful project schedule within a single tool. MindGenius provides project managers with visual tools for effective communication, problem solving and strategic planning. For a free 30 day trial, visit http://www.mindgenius.com

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and maintains a blog on project management. He’s got a few useful Microsoft Project tutorials, too!

He frequently publishes on Gantthead.com (www.gantthead.com) and additional published works have appeared in Projects@Work and Software Test and Performance Magazine. He is also an adjunct professor at Lawrence Technological University and Davenport University.