One thing all projects have in common is that they are kicked off by an idea or a need to do something and as a result will have an end goal. For example:
- Build a website
- Move office
- Build something
- Increase sales
- Improve production
Planning a project is the exercise of mapping out how to get from the idea to the end goal. The way forward is not always clear, so think of project planning as an exercise in working your way back from the end result to agree what you need to do to get there.
Where to begin?
My preferred project planning method is mind mapping and this is how I would start any project. Gathering thoughts and ideas in a mind map lets you work out the various activities that will be required to reach the end goal. Mind mapping lets you capture ideas from a wide team. As thoughts and ideas flow – add them as they come up to build the initial map. One thought might trigger something else – so you can add related ideas.
The design of a mind map means you don’t have to think linearly – simply capture all the ideas randomly with no structure. Start with the end goal as the first branch of the mind map. Once all of the information is captured, you start to group things together, prioritise them and build the picture of the best way forward.
Let’s use building a website as an example of how a project planning mind map would be built up
As ideas come in, the mind map grows out to capture all of the information
You can also attach images of ideas on design styles that are liked and will be considered for this project. Detail like design styles would usually be stored elsewhere, such as a shared file or a site like Pinterest. The advantage of attaching to the branch of the mind map is that it is stored along with the relevant text / idea so all information is in one place.
Until eventually the map has all of the ideas required to decide how to proceed. Categories let you assign priorities to make informed decisions.
Our Project Management Guide details how to build any project plan and includes easy to follow templates to help you get started.
All Plan and No Action
When someone is given a goal of, for example, build a website – it is easy to dive in and start doing what they think the tasks are to achieve that goal. Diving in and getting started without working out the best plan is a sure fire way for the project to fail – assumptions on what should be done without being clear whether they are right only leads to failure.
Mind mapping, as I have outlined here is an activity in ensuring the right tasks are being done. Once identified, resources can be added directly to your mind map to start assigning tasks to team members
As you build up this plan, you can turn it into a schedule and view as a task board or as a Gantt chart to help you manage the delivery of the project.
Combining mind mapping and task management provides a seamless transition from planning projects to managing projects. Within MindGenius, you can do all the planning and turn that into your project schedule in one easy click.
However, you may already have a project or task management tool in place where you manage project delivery. That is just as seamless, you can plan your project in a mind map the way I have outlined here and move the resultant actions and tasks into your chosen project management tool to manage to completion.
Whatever the end goal of a project is, project planning ensures you know how to get there. Mind mapping offers a visual, collaborative way of identifying the best way forward making it the essential project planning tool.
Try mind mapping for your next project planning exercise.