We’ve gone through the topic of why use the mind mapping technique for your project management efforts before. And this is a significant topic indeed especially when focusing on the achievement of your project goals and establishing a greater productivity. Now it is time to focus a little more on the benefits of mind maps and mind mapping to project managers and project assigned professionals, as this becomes a greatly popular theme among the project management community.
Concerning the project managers’ effort there is always a vast area of improvements regarding the productive ways to deploy project activities, especially by having in mind the number of stakeholders that need to be communicated, various tasks managed and emails tracked simultaneously, with which ones abilities can often be challenged, considering this information overload and multitasking.
By beginning with the usage of a tool such as a mind mapping software, project people can brainstorm their ideas faster and use mind maps to support the first phase of breaking a project into manageable parts. Project managers can also utilize the mind mapping technique to create better action plans by listing all tasks and assign the resources needed for best time management results.
This free eBook sums up the main benefits for project managers that utilize mind mapping software such as iMindQ to improve their productivity and increase their project organization efforts in order to reach project goals and milestones.
When speaking of the usage of a mind mapping software, tracking a projects progress is also done easily. Users can set alerts for the milestones to make sure they never fall behind and by utilizing the Gantt chart view and Work Breakdown Structure charts they can organize all project data and information supported with mind maps or concept maps.
While managing of a project is concerned, mind mapping can help all project people involved, to better manage meetings with the team and also solve emerging problems more effectively. This can be done by setting a project structure and organizing to the level of having the grounds to be prepared and alert for any issues that may arise.
A useful resource for project managers that are eager to start their mind mapping journey is the meticulously designed user manual for Project Management, representing a dedicated guide to all mind mappers that use iMindQ to aid their organization and planning activities.
Possibly one of the most beneficial arguments of the usage of mind mapping within project management is the effective usage of mind maps with the areas of strategic and project planning. This has also been confirmed as one of the most used areas by project managers with numbers coming from the latest research by the mind mapping community BiggerPlate. By means of having mind maps to illustrate the whole process from beginning to end, covering milestones, resources and deliverables, project managers can have a view of the “big picture” when it comes to their project planning activities, thus aiding their project organization from end to end.
To read more about the benefits of mind mapping for project management, you can download your free sample of the eBook on the following link: “Achieve Your Project Goals”.
Six Sigma is a methodology for reducing defects to a minimum through a disciplined, data-driven process. The system was created by engineers at Motorola who wanted to increase the granularity of measuring product failings. They discovered that increasing the observation pool from defects per thousands of opportunities to defects per million opportunities allowed them to observe more accurately how improvements could be made to the existing system. By utilizing six sigma methodology to this end, Motorola documented more than $16 billion in savings.
The Six Sigma method of reducing errors has been utilized across a number of fields beyond manufacturing including healthcare, banking, software development, and sales and marketing. Because the methodology follows a strict, repetitive process focused on testing, measurement, and adjustment, many departments and industries have discovered uses for the method in their field.
By utilizing Six Sigma methodology to improve the efficiency of your project portfolio – specifically with resource, labor, and time management – you can develop a system that is both measurable and long-lasting.
There are two Six Sigma sub-methodologies for implementing change – DMAIC for existing processes, and DMADV for new processes.
These sub-methodologies can be implemented to assist with facets of enterprise project management, creating a system that increases efficiency in an effective and measurable way.
The first step in the Six Sigma process is to define the parameters for the project, in this case being the improvement of resource management. It’s important to explicitly outline which projects will be included in the process, as well as what figures will be measured.
Having a strict definition of project parameters is important for accuracy. In traditional Six Sigma, manufacturers would be measuring the accuracy of millions of products, with specific quality guidelines. Because the goal was to have only 3.4 defects per million opportunities, inaccurate measurement definitions could lead to faulty tests and ultimately wasted analysis.
Additionally, the system for improvement within Six Sigma is supposed to be repeatable. By carefully defining parameters the first time around, you can more successfully evaluate solutions on their effectiveness, and choose the best option for resource management.
At this step in the process, you will measure the current state of your project’s resource management to establish a starting point. While you may not be pleased with the current state of resource management, it is still important to accurately measure and record this information to see how effective different strategies are.
In addition, it’s important to thoroughly measure applicable variables. You never know what aspect of the resource management process could use improvement. Recording any foreseeably useful information can help find inefficiencies to improve upon.
Now you can analyze your measurements to find flaws in the current system. This is where your enterprise project management software becomes especially valuable. Dashboards provide you with the tools to easily analyze your measurements.
Dashboards also present findings from data in interesting and actionable ways. For example, most dashboards allow you to filter out unnecessary information in order to view only pertinent data in side-by-side graphs or charts.
By manipulating such comparisons, you can discover hidden bottlenecks in resource distribution, or otherwise unnoticed correlations. While dashboards can greatly assist in the Six Sigma process, there are also other data analytics tools available online that can help provide analytical insight into your data.
For new Six Sigma projects, this is the stage in the process where solutions are designed based on the analysis. Because Six Sigma is based entirely upon figures and statistics, solutions need to be heavily reliant upon the data discoveries made in analysis.
For ongoing projects that have been through the Six Sigma process before, this is the stage in which you develop a new plan for improvement based upon both observations from measurement and analysis, as well as historical data from previous iterations.
All new recommendations and initiatives need to be highly detailed and specific. General ideas for improvement lack the measurability necessary for future analysis and take away. A general initiative might provide temporary improvement, but will lack the necessary detail to make a lasting impact.
The last step of the Six Sigma process is to control the newly implemented improvements. It’s important to remain consistent in the application of changes in order to fully analyze the effect the intended improvements have on efficiency. Additionally, this is the step in the Six Sigma process where you verify your original hypothesis. Did your change in the process produce the intended results?
Allow enough time after implementation for changes to make an impact before measuring fluctuations in data. The appropriate time of implementation depends upon the volume of products manufactured, in addition to the time required for manufacturing and measurement. At a minimum, you should allow for one month of fluctuation due to the volatile nature of new processes before observing the impact. If you decide to begin the Six Sigma cycle again before allowing the improvements to make an impact, then new measurements won’t accurately express potential for change, possibly ending a winning idea before it has had a chance to show its worth.
The Six Sigma methodology is a time tested solution for inefficiency in production, starting with the first DMADV cycle at Motorola. The solutions procured by this system shouldn’t be limited to manufacturing alone. By applying the principles of Six Sigma to enterprise project management, your team can increase project efficiency in a lasting and effective way.
Micromanaging can trap any professional, but project managers are particularly susceptible due to the nature of their work. While making sure details are buttoned down, project managers must be careful not to do so in a way that exasperates the staff. Ironically, micromanagement usually produces less precision, because team members become conditioned to distrust their own judgment and wait for someone else to make decisions. Here, then, are a few ways to loosen the reins and manage more effectively.
Communicate the Big Picture
Team members work confidently and accurately when they have context. Knowing what to do is much easier when someone has a grasp of the project’s purpose and objectives. Without such a grasp, tactical, day-to-day decisions force team members either to risk looking foolish by asking an inordinate number of questions, or to take the initiative and base decisions on their own experience and judgment, which may or may not be consistent with project strategy.
Connect the Dots
An effective project kickoff communicates the big picture to every participant, but equally important is explaining how each team member’s work contributes to the project’s success and affects the ability of other team members to get their jobs done properly. Besides the obvious morale benefit, connecting the dots provides the staff with more context – context that enables them to know what to do and how to do it.
To improve the communication between your team members and provide detailed explanation of each project activities, presented in a visually powerful Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), new best practice of most project managers is using Mind Mapping software like iMindQ.
Great mangers are always looking for ways to be even better. They ask team members questions such as:
- Do you have everything you need from me to get your work done?
- Do you have questions about any aspect of the project?
- Am I going into too much detail? Not enough detail?
- Where are you hung up? What isn’t going smoothly?
Interaction built around these questions brings the focus where it belongs – on bottlenecks and other inefficiencies. Micromanagement attacks all details indiscriminately, which wastes time and energy. Micro-focused management ignores the 80% that is working properly in order to free up time to concentrate fully on the 20% that requires adjustment or a complete overhaul.
While soliciting input as outlined above is very helpful, relying totally on team member input to manage a project is risky, because team members may not be aware of mistakes they are making or when they are veering off track. For these reasons, systematic spot-checking, based on the project manager’s sense of where possible problems are likely to crop up, is an excellent alternative to micromanaging every potential problem.
Pick Your Battles
Not every project element needs to be executed to perfection for the project to succeed. If that were so, no project would ever succeed; people being people, mistakes are inevitable. The real challenge for project managers is to discern which problems need fixing and which don’t. Doing this effectively requires experience, judgment, common sense and observation.
The last point, observation, is worth elaboration. Micromanagers often have an almost compulsive need to fix things immediately. But often, a wiser course is to let things play out a little bit. A person may not be executing a task the way the PM would do it, but perhaps that way works. Perhaps it works better! Continuous process improvement demands a degree of experimentation; otherwise, processes become rigid and unable to adapt to the changing environments that are inevitable in any business.
The bottom line for avoiding the pitfalls of micromanagement: Be flexible, focused, forgiving, inquisitive and patient. That’s a fairly long list, but adding these tools to your skill set will produce better results and stronger, more adaptable teams.
Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director and writer for StraightNorth.com, an Internet marketing agency providing SEO, web development, and other online marketing services, with headquarters in Chicago. Follow Straight North on Twitter and Facebook.
Launching new software? Making loads of people redundant? Whatever your project is doing, you’ll have to make some announcements some time. In her book, Communicating Projects, Ann Pilkington sets out a simple 6-step process for making any announcement on your project. It’s foolproof, so if you’ve ever wondered how to get your message across effectively, read on.
#1: Understand the message
What is it that you are saying? Make sure that you understand the implications of the message. An announcement about your project closing an office will generate questions about who is losing their jobs, so pre-empt anything like that and make sure that your message is clear.
You can test it on some colleagues before moving on if you’d like a fresh pair of eyes on the topic.
#2: Identify the audience
Who is receiving the message? This is likely to be a number of people across a few different stakeholder groups. They are probably people who have already been identified as part of your stakeholder management activity, but you may be communicating to groups outside of this. It’s always best to double check and the general rule is to communicate too widely, not too narrowly. If in doubt, include a group in the communication!
Do you have problems with people not reading your project documents? It’s really frustrating when you send out documents for comment and then find that the people you sent them to don’t read them. Or have any recollection of receiving them.
One of the best ways that I have found to avoid this happening is to make sure people know what is expected of them when they receive an email from you with a document attached. If you don’t spell out what you are waiting for then it’s really unlikely that you’ll get it, so you have to make it clear for stakeholders. There are 4 statuses that I use when issuing project documents to the rest of the team. Read more »