Thursday, 22 May 2014

Get Focus and Clarity on the Map!

Brainstorming sessions, team meetings, focus groups, workshops, training sessions, planning meetings, project meetings... think of how many meetings, sessions, groups, etc, businesses and organisations hold each day, each month, throughout the year – a staggering amount I would suggest!

Is that your organisation?

Is that you – do you hold or take part in a lot of meetings?

How well planned, executed and followed up are they?

What about encouraging and promoting creativity, engagement and collaboration?

With so many meetings, all held with the best intentions and objectives I’m sure, I can’t help but think of how important it is for us all that we plan, run, manage and follow-up on our meetings as effectively and productively as possible.

Yet, in our experience of working closely with a large client-base, I often experience and hear of instances of:

• Too many meetings
• Too many “waste of time” meetings
• Lack of focus on the reason and/or objective(s) for the meetings
• Lack of focus and clarity during the meetings
• Input, discussions, agreements and actions/tasks not being recorded properly
• Outcomes and actions not followed up effectively (on time or even at all)
• Increased dissatisfaction and annoyance within departments, teams and individuals that requirements, agreements and actions are not followed through

Of the many wide and varied successes, improvements and benefits that MindGenius has brought users over the years, the application and use of MindGenius as an effective collaborative tool to bring focus and clarity to each stage of the “effective meeting” process (Planning – Execution – Follow-Up – Close-Out) is one that provides real benefit and savings in time and effort.

If you haven’t already used MindGenius at any stage of your meetings, I would strongly encourage you to do so. It’s simplicity of use, the power of the visualization aspect the mapping format provides, the increased engagement and collaboration - all truly enhance that all-important focus and clarity that is vital to each stage of the meeting process –
• clear agenda and purpose
• ideal platform for creativity and idea-generation
• quick, easy, effective and visual capture of discussions, knowledge, information and input
• dynamic functionality to help with decision-making and prioritization (e.g. Categories and Filtering)
• clearly defined and displayed tasks, actions and resource allocation
• easy-to-use, intuitive task/action monitoring and management capability
• project management functionality without the need for other PM tools

Meetings and group sessions within businesses and organisations are now part of every-day business life – they are the platform and production line for an endless stream of strategies, decisions, innovation, direction, change, improvement, project management, etc, etc.

Why then, particularly when we have a tool and a “way of working” like MindGenius at our disposal, do we not maximise and improve our efficiency and productivity within this all-important aspect of our working lives?

(An example Map from MindGenius Templates)

You may have noticed the article in the April MindGenius Newsletter on assigning actions to branches, well worth looking at if you’ve not utilised that functionality. Building on that is a related topic in this month’s Newsletter – Export Tasks to, and Synchronising with, MS Outlook – another value-adding function that greatly enhances the management of tasks and actions arising out of meetings.

If you haven’t already done so, please take a serious look at using MindGenius for meeting management. If you require help or assistance there are numerous resources both within the MindGenius Help and within the Resources section of our website
We also provide advice and professional training and consultancy services to help you get the most out of MindGenius and its application for meetings and many other business and education uses.
Contact us anytime on, we’d be delighted to help!

Author Bio: Jamie MacDonald, Head of Client Development at MindGenius. Jamie is a highly experienced trainer, facilitator and coach with over 20 years’ experience in training, development, HRM and business improvement.


Are you getting the best out of MindGenius to enhance productivity for you / your team?

MindGenius Ltd provide an extensive range of tailored training and consultancy solutions for individuals and teams. If you need to improve your use or wider adoption of MindGenius, contact your Account Manager or email – we’d be happy to discuss your requirements and options.

HallMark Use MindGenius To Make A Difference

HallMark, based in Gloucestershire, UK, provide food safety and animal welfare compliance services across the UK. They strive to deliver superior performance by actively engaging stakeholders to deliver innovative and efficient solutions.
They provide a managed service to the Food Standards Agency providing Official Controls in abattoirs in Wales and Scotland and Sample Collection Services across the UK. They are also a major provider of Veterinary Reserve Personnel and Expert resources to AHVLA.
Established in 2002 the challenge was to deliver improved quality at reduced cost. Rather than short-term cost reduction, HallMark differentiated themselves by focussing on the retention and development of staff, developing well trained and supported empowered professionals who could make better more consistent decisions on site.

John Gerard, Managing Director of HallMark states:
‘The pressure to provide more for less is a fact of life for us and many other organisations today. In 2013 I wanted to look closely at what we do, and identify ways we could improve our processes as well as diversify into areas where we had not traditionally operated.
We started a program of process improvement, and MindGenius is ideal for going through an initial creative stage and then being able to easily move into the action planning and project management stages.
I’d tried a number of mind-mapping and project management tools, but I found them a bit clunky, or their functionality was too simple or too complex. MindGenius was really straightforward, with mapping and project management operating in tandem. The support was terrific, really fast and helpful, and the price was what I needed if I wanted to roll out for managers across the organisation.’
After using MindGenius for a short time John, recognising the benefits and value of the tool and its application, made the decision to increase in additional MindGenius licences for himself and his Senior Management Team.

In line with their strategic objectives and with a clear focus on increasing collaboration and creativity, implementing change and process improvement in their key performance areas, John also decided to build on the success of MindGenius as purely a product offering.
He engaged the services of MindGenius’ Client Development Services on a training and consultancy basis.
As well as highly beneficial MindGenius product training days, what evolved out of MindGenius Client Development Services working closely with John and his Senior Management Team was:
• particular focus on their “Dashboard” of Key Performance Areas
• building methodologies around how best to integrate MindGenius as a way of working for management meetings; identifying priorities; clearer decision making; task allocation and management
• creating focussed Project Plans arising out of applying the MindGenius “Models of Excellence” methodology (a major requirement)

A workshop, coinciding with a team building and Conference weekend, was arranged. This included John and all the HallMark Senior Management Team, and was facilitated by MindGenius (Client Development Services).
The event focussed on all of Hallmark’s strategic objectives and, using MindGenius live throughout the workshop to capture all the conversations, ideas and input, the team worked collaboratively and creatively to emerge with “Models of Excellence” and Improvement Project Plans for the main areas for process improvement.
The event acted as the catalyst for members of the Senior Management Team to take ownership of key areas of business improvement, with one taking a lead role as overall project manager.

‘We’re using MindGenius for a wide variety of uses across the organisation now – from process improvement, to developing our responses to tenders which we can quickly ‘translate’ into operational instructions and project plans.
‘MindGenius grows on you. If I have something I need to think about or plan, a meeting or a new problem I’ve not faced before, the first thing I fire up is MindGenius, blast out my thoughts and organise myself properly.’

(For more information on HallMark, please visit:

Did you know... MindGenius contains Map Templates

MindGenius Version 5 includes a tile-based template gallery providing quick and easy access to a wide range of templates to get you started.
Templates are time-saving tools. Use Templates to define the look and style of a Map, saving time and re-work  for yourself and others.
Templates define the style, layout and default content of your Maps. Creating your own Templates lets you create Maps that automatically use your preferred settings without having to customize them every time you build a Map.
Use Templates with structure to prompt users for information and bring focus to a task, project or process.

MindGenius Templates…
• Located in the Templates Gallery Pane area on the right-hand side of the screen (1)
• The Template Gallery provides access to a range of pre-installed templates
• Templates cover a wide range of topics (e.g. strategy planning, problem solving, etc)
• Users can use the “File / Save As / MindGenius Template” option to save any map as a Template
• Template Maps can be saved either to the “My Templates” or “Workgroup Templates” locations (for shared Maps)
How can I access and use Templates?
• On opening MindGenius, the Templates Gallery is visible on the right-hand side of the screen
• Clicking on the “Show Templates” command on the Home ribbon (2) accesses / closes the Template Gallery
• The Templates Gallery area can be hidden and re-opened to suit user requirements(3)
• The Template Gallery contains Categories of Templates to help you get started. When you click a Template Category (e.g. Project Management) the content of the panel changes to show its Templates

How to... Export Tasks to, and Synchronise with, MS Outlook…

Branches can have their Task properties synchronised between MindGenius and MS Outlook.
Where will I find this MS Outlook sync function?

Tasks are sent to MS Outlook via the Outlook Tasks menu on the Tasks Ribbon


How best can I use the MS Outlook function?
To send tasks to MS Outlook:
• Switch to the Tasks Ribbon
• Select one or more Branches to send to MS Outlook as Tasks (branches assigned to other users will be sent to their Task Lists)
• Click Outlook Tasks to open Outlook Tasks menu, then select “Send Selection to Outlook As Tasks”

On sending a Task to MS Outlook, a blue MS Outlook icon appears on the relevant Branch(es)
Task reminders are automatically set for all Tasks sent to MS Outlook.  The reminder is in the form of an email to the Task Owner.
The Start Date of a Task is used as the reminder date and 9am as the reminder time.
(Note: If the Start date of Tasks linked with MS Outlook is before or equal to today, no reminder will be set. Reminders will only be set for Tasks whose Start Date is in the future).
The Task Owner also receives a Task in MS Outlook.

The Task appears in Task Owners MS Outlook “My Tasks” listing
Once a Task has been sent to MS Outlook the Map will automatically begin synchronising changes every 5 minutes or when the Map is opened.
You can choose to synchronize the Map manually at any time:
• Switch to Tasks Ribbon
• Click “Outlook Tasks” to open Outlook Tasks menu, then select whether to synchronize the selected Branches or the entire Map
When the Map is synchronized, changes you’ve made in the Map are “pushed” to MS Outlook, while any changes made in MS Outlook (e.g. Task status/progress) are “pulled” to MindGenius.
When a Map is synchronized, any updates or changes to Task properties (e.g. status or progress) are updated in the Task Schedule area of the Tasks Ribbon.

To unlink Tasks form MS Outlook, switch to the Tasks Ribbon; select one or more Branches to unlink; Click “Outlook Tasks” to open Outlook Tasks menu, then select “Unlink Selection from Outlook”.
(Note: Unlinking Branches does not remove them from the MS Outlook Task List – unwanted Tasks should be removed manually from MS Outlook