Monday, 18 February 2013

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


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the down load link does not provide a file that Mind Genius 3 recognises

MindGenius said...

Hi, here's a link for a V3 version of the template.

Rick said...

Great information! An alternative web based program I've found for creating org charts on mac and other OS is Lucidchart. It is integrated with google drive and allows real time collaboration. I highly recommend giving it a try.

Evan said...

Is there a online cloud based version of the software platform independently. I use ubuntu and the only software available is dia which is not enough for mind mapping. Thanks


MindGenius said...

Hi Shalin, we're currently developing on a web based version so stay tuned :)

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