Using Mind Maps for Project Planning

Mind maps are a useful way to organize information and to gather input from a group.  A mind map is simple to construct and is really an organized way of collecting your (or your group's) thoughts.  By visually mapping out a problem, project tasks or set of ideas, you are engaging a different part of your brain which may generate a new perspective on the problem at hand.

Mind maps can be used for brainstorming, problem solving, initial project planning, and any time you need to organize your thoughts.  For project planning, starting with a mind map may be the best way to start breaking the project into its constituent pieces and to identify tasks.  Once the mind map is sufficiently fleshed out, it can be the input to a more formal work breakdown structure.

A mind map for a marketing project is shown below.  The primary goal is located at the center, in this case it is the Marketing Plan.  A mind map is hierarchical in a one-to-many fashion.  That is, each node has one parent, but can have many children.  The children of the root idea are general categories which in turn, have children at a more granular level.  This continues until sufficient detail is achieved.


Mind Map in Excel using Diagram Master
Mind Map for a Marketing Project


In the mind map below, the tasks involved in developing simulation software is broken into five general categories:

  1. Feature design
  2. User interface design
  3. Coding
  4. Testing
  5. Documentation

From these general categories (except coding) we can elaborate further in lower levels until the level of desired detail is reached.

Mind map created in Excel using Diagram Master
Mind Map for Simulation Software Project


Mind maps created in Excel using Diagram Master.

Excel is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation.  Used with permission from Microsoft.