Friday, 19 April 2013

Project Management Webinar in conjunction with the PMI

Following the positive response to our project management webinar series, we are pleased to present a webinar in conjunction with the PMI. Derek Jack, Director of MindGenius will be presenting ‘Ideas to action’ - How Mind Mapping software helps project teams. The Webinar will be taking place on Thursday 9th May at 12pm GMT.

This one off Webinar aims to show you how project teams are currently using mind mapping software to facilitate more engaging and effective brainstorming sessions, then maintain the momentum post brainstorming by effectively analysing the information captured and developing clear plans of action.

Using real examples we will demonstrate how project teams in all industry sectors use such tools to;

  • Create Work Breakdown Structures that make a visual impact and clearly communicate the scope of a project
  • Quickly transform a WBS maps into Gantt charts and MS Project plans
  • Help team members prioritise and manage their workload
  • Make meetings more effective by effectively capturing the live conversation and actions
  • Keep stakeholder communication clear and relevant

The PMI allows you to access a library of webinars with the aim help you make meaningful contributions to the project you lead or work on. The Webinar is free for PMI UK Chapter members and £25 for Non Members. Sign up for the Webinar using the link below,

Derek Jack is a Director at Gael Ltd and MindGenius Ltd. Gael provide products and services that have helped organisations manage governance, compliance and risk more effectively and more efficiently since 1992. Originally part of Gael, MindGenius Ltd was formed in March 2008 and provides Mind Mapping Software specifically designed to assist with common business processes, from gathering ideas to managing tasks and projects. MindGenius are Microsoft Certified Partners and have users in over 130 countries.

New MindGenius Training Courses Now Available

MindGenius are pleased to announce the launch of 2 new training courses:

Presentations with MindGenius – a 1-hour Online session on the use of MindGenius to create dynamic, focused and informative presentations

Brainstorming with MindGenius – a 1-hour Online training session on the use of the MindGenius brainstorm mode to improve the effectiveness of your personal and group brainstorming activities.

At MindGenius we are passionate about proper adoption of our MindGenius software and its associated methodologies – transferring our knowledge to MindGenius users so that they fully understand not only a piece of software but a way of working that enhances their productivity and efficiency in a whole range of day-to-day tasks and activities.

Many of our clients are realising that whilst MindGenius is an intuitive and easy-to-use tool, there is no substitute for the thorough, live, interactive knowledge and expertise available through one of our MindGenius training courses.

Why not consider training to ensure you have the necessary expertise and knowledge to get the best out of MindGenius? Our many years of experience tell us that the best users of MindGenius and the users that get the best return on investment are the ones that have had the benefit of being properly and expertly trained.

The courses are priced at £150/$240/€180 for a 1 hour online session where you can have up to 6 attendees

If you are interested in attending one of our training courses, simply contact your Account Manager or email us at:, we will be delighted to help get the best solution for you. For full information on other courses we offer, visit

The courses are organised by our Head of Client Development, Jamie Macdonald, a highly experienced trainer, facilitator and coach. Jamie has over 20 years’ experience in training, development, HRM and business improvement.

Improving Lessons Learned Sessions with MindGenius

Capturing lessons learned at the end of an iteration, release or project is a long standing project management best practice.  This typically involves a facilitator helping the project team brainstorm relevant lessons learned.  This can be captured on a flip chart or a whiteboard, however, I prefer to document lessons learned using a MindGenius mind map. By capturing the lessons learned in a mind map format, the facilitator can categorize and organize by type and resource. The facilitator can quickly communicate and share the results by distributing the map using several useful MindGenius views.

Figure 1 Lessons Learned in a Mind Map

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to use the attached MindGenius template to facilitate a lessons learned session, identify the key lessons learned and categorize them into clear and actionable tasks for future follow up.

Step 1. Review the Lessons Learned Template

The lesson learned template is organized into three main areas – People, Processes and Solution. You can add additional areas although these should get you started with what went right, what went wrong and what continued to work well for the project. The template includes a Lessons Learned Map Part node that includes additional detail for every lesson learned. This map part should be copied and pasted into every new lesson learned node (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Lessons Learned Template Map Part

The lessons learned map part includes the context, lesson learned detail, specific action item and assigned resource. The context branch is used to explain the background of the lesson learned and clarify the situation. The lesson learned detail node is use to capture the specific lesson learned and associate benefits or failures. The action item node is used to identify the specific action required for the lesson learned. Each lesson learned may not have a direct action item but it is helpful to determine next steps with the action item, otherwise, the nugget of project knowledge will simply be lost in the project archives. Finally, the assigned resource identifies who should implement or follow up on the action item. By incorporating action items and expecting assigned resources to follow up on the action items, project managers improve the benefit of lesson learned sessions.

Figure 3 illustrates a brief example of a lesson learned. The actual “lesson learned 001” node can be renamed using a title that summarizes the overall lesson. In MindGenius, additional notes can be added using the Note Editor. As you might guess, some team members will provide a lot of information about a specific lesson learned or you may only get one or two sentences. With MindGenius you can capture either level of data.

Figure 3. Lessons Learned Detail Example

Step 2. Conduct the Lessons Learned Session

One best practice is to find an independent facilitator who isn’t the project manager to conduct the lessons learned workshop. In some cases, the project manager may be the source of lessons learned that need improvement. If the project manager facilitates the session, the project team may be reluctant to share the information. A lesson learned session can be accomplished within an hour and the team members should be encouraged to brainstorm until all of their ideas are exhausted. Some project teams choose to write lessons learned on index cards while others will verbally state them. I prefer to simply identify and discuss the lesson learned so other team members can contribute to the discussion. All of these notes are captured within the mind map. The list of lessons learned can grow and you’ll quickly find the map getting bigger. By using the Map Explorer (Figure 4), you can navigate to each branch and focus on the specific node details without getting lost in the map. I’ve found Map Explorer to be a useful tool when trying to switch between lessons learned and add supplemental notes.

Figure 4. Navigating the Lessons Learned with Map Explorer

Step 3. Categorize each lesson learned

The map template has been setup with 3 lesson learned categories including Do More, Continue to Do and Needs Improvement. As you collect the ideas or after the lessons learned have been generated, you can use the MindGenius Category dropper to quickly categorize each into a logical Do More, Continue to Do or Needs Improvement Category. You can customize these categories to fix your own lesson learned categorization under the Analyze – Edit Categories menu item

Step 4. Assign a Resource to each Lessons Learned Node

In the node detail, each lesson learned included an assigned resource sub-node. I initially use this node to track who should be assigned to follow up on the lesson learned. Once the session is complete, I go back and assign the individual resource to the main lesson learned node (i.e Lesson Learned 001). Depending on the necessary task follow up, you may ask the assigned resource to pick a date when the action will be completed. Following up on lessons learned is an important step in continuous improvement and improving the organization’s project management competency.

To assign a resource to the specific resource node, use the Task – Resource Dropper menu item and click on each relevant node to assign a resource. Once categories and resources have been assigned, the raw lessons learned map can be organized by category and assigned resource.

Step 5. Generate the Category Map

One of MindGenius’s strengths is being able to capture the data in one format and rearrange the data in another useful format. Creating the category map allows the facilitator to quickly organize the map into the Do More, Continue to Do and Needs Improvement categories. Select Analyze – Create Category Map to create the category map in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Lessons Learned by Category

I recommend publishing the map in this format as a summary of the lessons learned session and then providing specific detail in a presentation. MindGenius supports exporting the map into PowerPoint so you are only a few clicks away from putting any final details or notes into a management presentation.

Step 6. Generate the Resource Map for future follow up

The next step is to organize the action items and follow ups from the lessons learned session. Creating a resource map that organizes specific action items by person is helpful for additional follow up. Project managers make the mistake of simply documenting a lessons learned session and moving on to another project. The key value of a lessons learned session are the action items that need to be acted upon to improve delivery for the organization and future projects. Select Tasks – Create Resource Map and set the Ignore these Branches option for Branches with no resources. The lessons learned by resource map will be created (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Lesson Learned Action Items by Resource

As previously mentioned in Step 4, a date can be assigned to each action item for future tracking. The key take away is to actually follow up on the lessons learned and apply them to improve the organization. In the past 6 steps, I’ve showed you how to easily document, categorize and assign action items for a useful lessons learned session. Document and incorporate your lessons learned into future project initiation phases and commit to apply past lessons learned to your project. 

Download the lessons learned template and get started!

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