Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Using Mind Mapping to re-energise Politics

Jim Mather is a former Member of the Scottish Parliament (2003 until 2011), including a spell as Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism from 2007 onwards. Jim recently presented at Biggerplate Unplugged on the changes he believes are required to ensure mind mapping becomes mainstream.

Jim focused primarily on his experiences with mind mapping both as a Minister and at constituency-level as an MSP which he believes can re-energise politics.

During his time as Minister for Enterprise, Jim hosted 191 “National Conversations” with industries and local communities. These sessions averaged 48 people in the room, lasting for around 2 and ½ hours, and focused on asking simple questions such as:

  • Does this community meet your personal needs?
  • Who do you guys serve?
  • How would these people you serve define your purpose?
  • How should we measure actual performance in the delivery of that purpose?
  • Who else can help us?
  • What needs to change?
In Argyll and Bute, his largely-rural constituency, there were 26 sectors, including transportation, production, and farming, and during the sessions with sectors and communities a clear purpose emerged from the discussion: how do we get more people in our area into compelling and sustainable work?

The rationale for that being that the community saw a clear link between having more people in work and increased viability of shops, schools and services, as well as increased vibrancy in the local economy and a greater sense of societal cohesion. This resulted in greater interaction between individuals and different industries, such as transport and visitor attractions talking more closely to the hospitality and accommodation strands of tourism, and the food and drink industry speaking to hospitals and schools and working together more closely.

In the sessions, a huge MindGenius map would be created; Jim believes the equivalent of 60-80 flip charts. Using the map allowed people to see that their ideas had been listened to and were being considered. After the sessions, the map was distributed in map format along with MindGenius exports to PDF and MS Word to all attendees within 24 hours.

The process worked well in terms of the confidence built, the amount of information gathered and the speed in which attendees received their copies of the output, all of which made for momentum and things getting done. In total it was a phenomenon, which Jim believes would have been impossible with traditional methods.

As indeed was the fact that the knowledge gathered in these sessions could be maintained for future reference and people could see their input was making a difference.

One other indicator that this was an effective means of engagement was the positive electoral impact. As evidence that sectors and communities being given a new way to be more involved in their own futures, the voters of Argyll and Bute gave Jim’s Party an 8500 majority at the next election.

This in spite of the fact he was retiring from politics and standing down, that majority was up from the 815 majority he had in the area when first elected, an outstanding result considering the usual electoral penalty for standing down.

Jim has noted that all of his 191 sessions ended in applause: and explains that people were applauding themselves for having the guts to speak out, for being heard, for hearing other people and realising they weren’t on their own.

Jim believes that “Politics can be re-energised around conversations and mind mapping. It’s a way of modernising a system whereby politicians are usually sent away from the communities they represent to parliament whereas this system allows greater interactions between politicians and those they serve.”

Jim now has roles with Gael Ltd as Chairman, and as a visiting Professor at The University of Strathclyde. View Jim’s full presentation and find out more on the recent Biggerplate Unplugged event in London. Biggerplate Unplugged was a conference for the mind mapping industry, organised by Biggerplate, the mind map library. The next in the series will be held in Paris, find out more

Developing Useful Organization Charts and Communication Plans in MindGenius

Organization charts and communication plans are core documents in any project implementation. Projects involve many people that require different communication updates throughout project implementation. When a project is first initiating, identifying the key team members, supporting players and important stakeholders directly contribute to a successful project kick off. Developing the project team organization chart will also help team members understand who’s who and their role in the project.

Microsoft Visio is a decent tool for developing an organization chart, however, I’ve found using MindGenius helps project managers quickly define the project team and organize a better communication plan. The built-in Affinity layout easily creates a hierarchical view and adding the map formats itself when a new team member is added. This tutorial will show you how to create an organization chart in MindGenius and categorize each resource for a useful communication plan.

Step 1. Identify the project’s major work streams

The project can be divided into major sections including sub-teams working directly on the project, teams supporting the project and stakeholders monitoring the project’s progress. The project can be decomposed into specific work breakdown structure elements or organized by functional teams. The mind mapping format allows you to easily brainstorm key resources and organize them into different nodes (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Sample ACME Purchasing Program

Step 2. Select the Affinity map layout
In Figure 1, I’ve created a map that includes a North American and European work stream with a project management office, organization support, financial controller and related subject matter experts. By changing the format to the affinity format, the mind map looks like a typical organization chart (Figure 2). To change the format, simply select Format – Map Layout – Affinity.

Figure 2. Organization Chart Step 3. Define the project resources

Step 3. Define the project resources
The next step is to define the stakeholders, team members and other supporting resources in the project. Select Tasks – click on the Resources bottom scroll bar arrow – select Manage Resources. The Edit Resources List will appear and you can add the team members to your map.

Figure 3. Edit Resource List

MindGenius will also import contacts from your Microsoft Outlook address book which makes adding resources and their contact details easier.

Step 4. Assign resources to their respective roles
Using the Resource Dropper (Tasks – Resource Dropper), assign team members to the specific roles in the project team organization chart. The steps to assign resources and create a resource assignment map have been previously documented in the 6 Steps from Project Scope to Schedule article. Using the Resource Dropper makes assigning resources to a project organization chart fast and easy to do. In Figure 4, I have completed assigning resources. In the Organization Support structure, I chose not to assign resources with the Resource Dropper and simply listed the resource names individually rather than relying on the resources initials (Figure 4). Adding the resource names individually adds to the overall readability but it increases the size of your team organization chart. You can apply either approach based on the size of your project team.

 Figure 4. Project Organization Chart

The organization chart can be exported to Powerpoint, PDF or an image file to be included in a presentation kick off deck. I recommend printing the map and hang it on the office wall to easily refer to each workstream and key contact. For large programs, developing a WBS and a project organization chart using this technique is very helpful.

Step 5. Build the initial communication plan

The next step is to categorize each resource based on the necessary communication cadence. Project governance is usually organized around a daily team meeting, a weekly status meeting, a monthly steering committee meeting and a monthly or quarterly meeting with senior executives. Your project may have a difference cadence and MindGenius will let you define custom categories based on each project’s needs. In Figure 5, I created 4 custom categories including Daily Stand Up, Weekly Status Meeting, Monthly Committee Review and Quarterly Review.

Figure 5. Communication Plan Categories

Select Analyze – Edit Categories to define new category groups and categories. Just like the Resource Dropper, the Category Dropper is used to assign each team member a specific communication plan category. In some cases, like a Monthly Committee review or a Weekly Status meeting, the same resource will be assigned to multiple categories (Figure 6). The program manager is likely to attend the weekly status meeting, monthly committee review and quarterly reviews. Assign the categories to the specific resources as needed (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Communication Assigned Categories

With the resources assigned, the next step is to create a category map to organize the initial communication plan.

Step 6. Create the Category Map Select Analyze – Create Category Map and select the category centric map options. I select to export the entire map and ignore any branches without categories. Click Ok to generate the new category map (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Communication Plan Category Map

The category map quickly organizes each resource under the specific governance meeting. By organizing each communication category, a detailed communication plan can be quickly developed to include the key resources from the various work streams. This view is especially helpful when setting up the various communication and governance sessions on large projects or programs. Additional notes can be added to each other meeting nodes to include typical communication plan data include frequency, purpose of communication, method of delivery, etc.

Key Benefits
The key benefits of this visual thinking approach include better comprehension, faster organization and better communication to the project team. An organization chart in a mind map format is easy to update and regenerate the resource and category maps. Compared to other diagramming tools like Visio or PowerPoint, MindGenius’s speed and usability make it a must use tool for organization charts.

Download a MindGenius Organization Chart Template to help you get started with building your own project team organization chart and initial communication map. By including the maps in a project kick off presentation or in the project plan, team members have a better understanding of the project resources and communication cadence. Don’t be surprised if you see both maps hanging in your team members’ cube walls!
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 www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.