Thursday, 24 January 2013

Meeting Management and How MindGenius Helps

Effective meeting management is ensuring you get the best out of every meeting you hold. Meeting management should focus on making better use of time, moving projects forward, learning from previous mistakes and take these learning’s forward. Successful meetings are a useful way of exchanging information, reaching decisions and assigning actions to achieve desired outcomes.

Ineffective meetings can use up critical resources, deplete organisational energy and affect employee morale. Meetings are at risk of not being productive to both the individuals and organisation due to various reasons. These are;


 •Poor preparation
 •No agenda
 •No time management
 •Lack of actions

In order to be effective, meetings should have a clearly defined purpose and prior to the meeting it is important to identify the meeting objectives, deliverables, scope and aims.

The purpose of the meeting should help determine the appropriate format. Regardless of meeting purpose and format, MindGenius and mind mapping software can help. In an activity status meeting, it is essential to track the progress of a project, MindGenius can help you track actions and their progress. Take a look at this template and sample map.

Monthly Sales Meeting Agenda


Review meetings or Retrospectives are held at the end of a project's lifecycle or at various regular intervals and aim to identify and analyse what went well and what did not. MindGenius can help keep these sessions fresh, and achieve valuable clarity and insight by helping the facilitator to unearth all relevant information from the participants and keep the meeting streamlined.

ISMS Management reviews are essential for monitoring and measurement of processes. MindGenius can be used within a management review to help capture and identify key processes as well as helping to recognize the objectives for the processes. They should also be used to identify ways to drive continuous improvement. Take a look at this template for ISMS Review.

It does not matter what format of meeting you are running, they can be both as complex as the ISMS Review map or as simple as this Project Retrospective map. Irrespective of the type of meeting you will likely need to undertake some preparation. If you’re not sure if you’ve prepared fully, take a look at our meetings checklist

Meeting Preparation Checklist


Once you have decided the purpose of the meeting and understand what type of meeting is being held, the next step for the facilitator is to develop the agenda for the meeting. MindGenius allows you to generate an agenda prior to the meeting. By using the agenda map you should be able to follow a definite structure. During the meeting, capture and explore ideas easily and use the agenda map as a control mechanism. Using MindGenius, you can work with the attendees to achieve true collaboration on the information discussed and gain clarity and understanding on the topic at hand.

It’s easy to become stuck in a rut with the way meetings are managed in an organisation. Mind mapping software can transform the way meetings are run, allows attendees to leave the meeting with a clear understanding of what was achieved and what needs to be done next. Running meetings in conjunction with MindGenius allows the facilitator and attendees to prepare effectively for the meeting and for the facilitator to create an agenda to help structure the meeting, bring focus and control to the session and keep it on track.

Commission V's Fee Based Working

Faced with the challenge of transitioning from commission to fee based working, more and more financial planners are turning to mind mapping to help. A mind map is a visual way of capturing and presenting information, that helps people to gain clarity and understanding on any topic.

For financial planners it helps them clearly illustrate to the client the range of work carried out on their behalf, allowing transparency on why the fee is being charged. The map of services becomes a template for a meeting that enables the planner to explore the client’s current financial situation, where they want to be and how they 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 can ensure the session is interactive, keeps the client visually engaged and results in a financial plan that is understood and identifies opportunities for both parties.




One Company who have been using MindGenius mind mapping software and the technique for years is Wheaton Wealth Management in Wheaton, Illinois. They developed and have been using the 4 Quadrant, Insight map approach, and Rob O’Dell of Wheaton, believes using their Insight Map is a client centric way of working, helping them to facilitate engaging discovery style sessions with the client. They work their way through “Family Matters,” “Legacy Preservation,” “Planning,” and “Investments.” Rob believes that seeing the map on the screen with all of the quadrants makes it clear the extent of the work the agency does.  Rob has said that “MindGenius and mind mapping has been a game changer for Wheaton Wealth Partners.  Almost every exchange--internally and with our clients--is conducted using a map, from compliance and marketing to strategy, and client on-boarding.  The real magic in mind mapping is in using MindGenius interactively with our clients. We have found that this more intimate and innovative experience with clients has meant our client on boarding ratio is extremely high and our retention even higher. For Wheaton Wealth Partners, mind mapping is truly a win-win.”  



Mind mapping could be used as a way to show the range of services and value you are providing, helping you to justify your fees, and as a way to engage clients in the financial planning process. 

Try mapping with a 30 day free trial at www.mindgenius.com, or view this short video on a Discovery style financial planning session.  

All of these maps and more are available on www.biggerplate.com. If you are not a member of Biggerplate.com, you will need to join first before you can download the maps. Joining is free and will only take a couple of minutes.

Develop a Scope Statement with MindGenius

A project scope statement is a useful tool to outline the project’s deliverables and identify the constraints, assumptions and key success factors. The well written scope statement clearly defines the boundaries of a project. Before the project begins, the project team and the project stakeholders need to agree to the scope statement before project execution. A project’s scope has a direct impact on the other two elements of the project’s triple constraint – time and resources. If the project team can’t agree to the scope, the other two elements will keep changing despite the project manager’s best intention to execute the project.

The project manager often resorts to the project scope statement as the formal documentation for accepted project scope. Some project scope statements run the risk of exceeding an academic dissertation when only a page was needed to convey project scope. Agile project managers recognize scope will adjust across the project lifecycle so compiling a tedious scope volume isn’t the best use of the team’s time.

A better solution is to document the scope statement using a mind map. The mind map can still contain the key elements of a project scope statement including:


  • Project scope description – a brief description or project summary
  • Project deliverables – a specific list of results produced by the project
  • User acceptance criteria – a list of critical success factors to accept the project deliverables
  • Project boundaries – identifies what deliverables are in an outside of the project’s scope
  • Project constraints – a list of project limitations typically categorized by results, time frames, resources, physical or technical constraints
  • Project assumptions – a list of thoughts that are believed to be true yet need to be confirmed
Figure 1 displays the MindGenius scope statement template.


Figure 1. MindGenius Scope Statement Template
When developing a project’s scope, the list of deliverables, constraints, boundaries, and assumptions is often the result of brainstorming. Using a mind map to capture an exhaustive list of deliverables and the refining them provides flexibility in the scope definition process. Once the ideas are reviewed, combined and vetted, the formal scope statement can be refined for presentation.

Consider this scenario: Your director requests your involvement in a new website development project to share personnel and financial data with a 3rd party vendor. Your responsibility is to develop the scope and high level timeline based on a set of meetings with your business customer. You need to facilitate the meetings and identify the project needs.

How will you document the scope?

By using MindGenius to facilitate the meetings, you can capture all the project scope details as the business customers brainstorm deliverables, constraints, assumptions and acceptance criteria. Using Map Explorer in MindGenius, the project manager can focus on specific project deliverables without displaying other sections of the mind map (Figure 2)
Figure 2. MindGenius Scope Statement Project Deliverables Example
Once the deliverables are agreed upon, the mind map can be refined and the branches can be collapsed. MindGenius helps to organize the different parts of the scope statement to communicate a view that is easy to understand. Project stakeholders don’t want to read more than a page describing the project scope. Since most project deliverables (scope statements, charters, and requirements) are converted into a PowerPoint presentation for executives, MindGenius helps reduce the administrative burden by exporting to Microsoft PowerPoint or Microsoft Word. The visual format of the MindGenius mind map helps to covey the project scope without having to read pages of documentation.
I’ve conducted numerous brainstorming sessions to develop a project’s scope and using mind maps is an excellent way to plan, prioritize and communicate using colors, picture and lines to identify important ideas and key questions. Figure 3 includes the completed mind map example.
Figure 3. MindGenius Completed Scope Statement
Similar mind map formats can be used for project charters, communication plans, work breakdown structures and meeting minutes . Meeting minutes are often an administrative bore yet by creating meeting minutes in a visual mind map format, I’ve found it keeps team members more engaged. The mind map acts as the meeting agenda and the meeting minutes are created real-time as the project manager appends notes to each of the agenda nodes. Instead of creating separate document, I create a PDF of the mind map and send it to the team after the meeting.

Meeting minutes and scope statements are just two examples of the project deliverables that can be created using MindGenius. The ability to communicate visually helps team members comprehend complex problems easier. Project stakeholders like the visual communication because pictures simplify the overall project scope, challenges, and successes. I find stakeholders, PMOs and executives are always looking for better visual dashboards. Mind maps are an excellent solution to add to any executive reporting deck due to their visual nature.

In stakeholder reviews, I’ve used visual mapping to create more engagement and discussion instead of the typical bullet points that are glazed over and hardly read. The graphical nature of the mind map further enables discussion as project stakeholders discuss challenges, reprioritize requirements and continue to refine the mind map. Try creating more engagement from your stakeholders with mind map.

I encourage you to download the Scope Statement Template and the completed Scope Statement Example file and start applying visual thinking to your projects today!

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.


Achieve your Goals in 2013

New Year often brings a new focus and in order to develop in 2013, you need to follow a process that will help you achieve your goals in 2013 and beyond. Committing to personal development can mean focusing on improving your self-knowledge, identifying your potential, fulfilling goals and aspirations and defining a personal development plan. Personal Development planning means working through questions such as what do I really want to achieve from life, what are my goals and ambitions, am I taking the right actions to get me there.

In order to create an effective Personal Development plan, the first thing you need to understand is your current situation. To help you understand where you are and set objectives for the year ahead, a personal SWOT will help you to identify opportunities for improvement, and help you to make the most of your personal talents by working out what you are good at and where you could improve. You will understand any threats to you achieving your goals such as needing to move house and the time this will entail, or a partner or relative’s illness necessitating time away from work. Use this template to help you focus on your strengths, appreciate where you need to improve and make the most of opportunities available to you.

Once we know where we are we need to know what our goals are. For some people this may be crystal clear but other people may not be as sure. It can help at this stage to consider methodologies and mind-sets available and self-help books offer a wealth of information. Dr Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People has stood the test of time from when it was published in 1990. Reading this information map will give you an overview on the 7 habits which include being proactive, beginning with the end in mind and seeking first to understand and then be understood. Covey's concept can help people grow, change, and become more effective both in the workplace and in their personal lives.

Now you understand the current situation, it’s time to document your goals and make them visible. Major goals can seem unattainable so sometimes the easiest way to achieve your objectives is to plan them out and start small with little goals to achieve that all add up to reaching your main objectives. You can achieve your goals – but you have to work at it. Make sure you understand what it is you want to achieve and by when? How much do you want this? How determined are you to succeed? What do you need to do this year, this quarter, this month, this week, today to get you closer to your target? What does that mean in terms of action, planning, effort and attainment? Use this Goal Setting template to identify what you need to achieve and how you will do it. Setting goals will help you get to where you want to be.

Now you need to implement the tasks that are going to help you achieve your goals. Maybe you have your own method, but you could also consider a new one such as Getting Things Done™. This is a time management methodology which helps you to manage your time, increase focus and improve personal productivity. It will help you to understand which tasks you need to work on first in order to achieve your goals and which tasks can be saved for later. David Allen, the author of this methodology, uses two key elements, control and perspective and will help you implement a process to ensure you do what needs to be done. Take a look at this information map which outlines the process and includes a template to get you started.

It can be easy to get caught up in activities which don’t help you achieve your goals so regular review points are required to help ensure you stay on track and meet your goals come year end. Schedule these every few months or quarterly and reflect on what you’ve achieved since your last review point. Do you need to change anything to get you back on track and do you need to set any new tasks to help you get there? Are you meeting your short term goals, do you have the skills required to reach the next phase of your ultimate career or personal goals. This template will help you ensure you can achieve your goals by undertaking regular reviews. Following this process should help ensure you meet all of your goals.

All of the maps in this article can be found on Biggerplate.com. If you are not a member of Biggerplate.com, you will need to join first before you can download the maps. Joining is free and will only take a couple of minutes.


Biggerplate are also hosting a mini mind mapping conference on Thursday January 31st in London. Find out more at: http://biggerplatelondon.eventbrite.com/#