Friday, 10 December 2010

Successful Meeting Planning with MindView

Plan An Effective Meeting Yesterday's post introduced the "5 Steps to a Successful Meeting" planning approach. 

 

Here the map is presented in MindView Business Edition, partly by way of contrast but also to demonstrate how the map may be used as a template to create the meeting briefing.  You can download the MindView map here.

 

 

FocusOnBriefingThe text for the topics under "Step 3 - Prepare Meeting Briefing" is added as notes to the key topics.  For the meeting briefing, I only want this branch to be exported to Word so "Apply branch focus" to the "Step 3 - Prepare Meeting Briefing" topic.

 

MeetingBriefing Next export the map to Word.  Once in Word, remove any topic headings not needed and what is left is the briefing for the meeting, ready for pasting into an email or further refinement as a Word document. 

Follow the same process if you decide to create the meeting agenda (Step 4) within MindView.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

5 Steps to a Successful Meeting

Building on previous maps, this one takes the analysis and planning steps and combines them with a template for producing the meeting briefing and agenda. The map may be used as a guide, a checklist or a template. Sample text is provided for the meeting briefing as topic callouts, to illustrate how to produce a deliverable out of the analysis and planning.

5 Steps to A Successful Meeting

The five steps are:

  1. Complete Analysis
  2. Complete Planning
  3. Prepare Meeting Briefing
  4. Prepare Agenda
  5. Issue the Briefing with Agenda Attached.

The map is available to download as a MindManager 9 map from Biggerplate and Maps for That.  A MindView version will be posted shortly.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Dealing with the Unexpected

Planning to Resolve a Problem, Issue or Crisis

When an unexpected event occurs – a problem, an issue or a crisis – you may not always have a ready made contingency plan available to deal with it. However if you follow a standard planning procedure you may increase your chances of a speedy resolution.

When to Use a Task Planning Procedure

When a problem, issue or crisis requiring an urgent response arises – and where a straightforward response isn’t appropriate – you will need to plan. The task to resolve the situation might be given to you by your manager or their manager or it may be one you have identified yourself. The time available to achieve the outcome is limited or is subject to a fixed and imminent deadline. The event is one either not normally or not currently covered by your business contingency plan. However, you need a plan with which to brief and supervise a team – and a plan will also help reassure management and stakeholders that you are in control of the situation and its resolution.

How to Use the Task Planning Procedure

Describing this thought process as a “procedure” might suggest a lengthy process that you may feel you don’t have time for. Remember, even in the most urgent of situations time spent on review, analysis and planning will help ensure a more efficient, effective and flexible response. The time you spend planning depends on the time and information you have available and the scope and scale of the problem. If you only have 10 minutes, then run through the procedure in our head and prepare a short verbal briefing. If you have longer, make notes (use the template – see below) and collect more information to help your decision making.

A word of caution - beware collecting too much information or waiting for additional information - there will come a point where there is so much information available it will actually begin to hinder decision making. Know when it is time to act - trust your instincts.

The Key Steps

image

Further detail around each of these headings is provided in the accompanying mind map – right click and then “Save” here for the MindView map.

When giving the team briefing

A face-face, verbal briefing is always best. If appropriate and there is time, issue a summary of the objective, the key elements of the plan, the key roles and contact details.

Ensure delegated actions are understood by staff, together with the overall objective and intent. Ensure everyone knows how progress is to be reported and when/where review checkpoints are. Ensure everyone knows what the communication channels are. Assign someone to manage communications with key people outside the immediate response team.

Key Points

This kind of crisis planning assumes that time is critical, that deadlines must be met - that an unusual situation requires and unusual response. Notice that no time is wasted searching for how and why the situation has arisen, other than where this knowledge may help a speedy resolution. The focus is entirely on planning and implementing a solution. Anyone who wants to spend time debating how this could have happened or what it might mean is not engaged with the solution - encourage to them to leave analysis of the cause till afterwards. Fix the situation first then review how it could have happened and how it might be prevented.

Full information may not be available to support decisions. Time spent waiting until more information is available may be time when more cost, upset and damage is incurred. In unplanned situations, dealing with uncertainty is a key management skill. Make whatever assumptions are needed and act based on these. Be prepared to change the course of action as new information comes to light or your assumptions change.

Don't plan in too much detail - you need to think each option through and know what you will do but you don't need to break the task down into minute detail, leave that to your team. Your plan establishes the goals for the task. The course of action you choose and initiate provides the direction your staff need to get things done. The fallback or contingency plans identify what people will do if anticipated problems actually occur. The course of action may be changed by you if new information changes your assumptions, if new problems arise or if opportunities for a speedier or more effective resolution present themselves.

Don't forget your communications - with the staff involved in executing the plan and with your management and other identified stakeholders. Delegate someone to organise, communicate and chase attendees for review checkpoint meetings or telephone conferences.

When It's All Over

Update everyone and send congratulations and thanks.

Update management and key stakeholders - this time include those left out until now as not critical, now is the time to bring them up to date.

Schedule an "after action" review of the plan, its implementation and success. Document what you would do if the event or crisis were to occur again. Identify any actions needed to strengthen capability for the future. This is about improving your response when this or similar situations arise.

Schedule a review to examine how the situation arose and how it might be prevented or the risks mitigated in future. This is about preventing the same situation arising again.

image A planning template or aide memoire was created from the MindView map by exporting it to Excel.  It’s available as a PDF file by clicking here.

 

 

The map is also available as a MindManager file from either Biggerplate or There’s a Map for That.

Friday, 12 November 2010

MindView 4 - Pre-Release Announcement

 

MV4-BE-Box-Front-medJust announced is the upcoming release of MindView 4 from MatchWare.  The full details are available from MindView Upgrade Features.

The list of upgraded and new features is a long one and continues to build on MindView's strengths in MS Office integration and project management.  New mind map styles are promised along with new Word templates for export.  Also new is a Shared Workspace to allow collaboration on maps - this appears to be available through subscription to an online hosting service.

A trial version is not yet available however it is possible to sign up for a "personalised webinar" to see the new features in action - see http://webinar.matchware.com/en/upgrade-webinar.php.

Prices have been released and there appears to be a hefty discount for MindView 3 users - see: http://www.matchware.com/download/MindView_4_Commerical_Pre_Order_Sheet.pdf.

Technorati Tags: ,

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Developing Procedures from Flowcharts

Disclosures - Process Overview There any many instances on the web where people have confused process mapping with flowcharting.  I'll save you the tedium of professional debate on this and move quickly on to a great use for flowcharting for documenting business activity.

Post Procedure for Blog 2 Assuming that for each business process, you will produce a process diagram or map, each of these diagrams will have several process steps through which work progresses.  When you want to explore a process step in greater detail, flowcharting is a great way to get the logic straight.

The flowcharts provide useful documentation in their own right - for analysis and for training new staff, for instance.  However if used for training there is probably more detail you will want to add - lots more explanatory text, details of buttons to press, keys to hit, filing cupboards to access and so on.  You will probably want to include screen shots from systems and images of reports and documents also.  It's at this point you might start thinking about producing a full blown procedure.

Action Post Procedure One approach is to re-key the flowchart into a mind mapping tool as a preliminary step.  Choose one with good export to Word features, here I have used MindView as I think it is the easiest to use and has the most predictable export results. The initial advantage of using mind mapping software is that you can retain the original structure of your flowchart as you add more detail and wrestle further with the logic and structure.

When you are ready, export the map to Word.  Time spent creating your preferred template and style set in Word will save you time later on, especially if you are creating many procedures through several iterations. Think carefully about how you use the different levels in the mind map so that they translate to the appropriate Word paragraph style.  Well thought out application of Word styles will help preserve the structure, levelling and flow. 

Procedure template Also decide how you will denote switches in logic flow and how to set out decisions.  I reserve using branch links or relationships for only big switches in logic flow - these become "GoTo's" in the procedure document. 

Where a question is posed, consider using structured English with an "IF ... THEN .... ELSE" style dialogue. 

Design a set of icons to use on the mind maps to highlight different ideas in the procedure, such as tips and examples.  These can be exported with the text to Word and will make your procedure document more engaging.

Once you've exported the mind map you are then free to add additional notes and images to complete the procedure.  You will only want to do this at the final stage so that any edits are not lost should you need to re-export the mind map.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Keeping Up with the IAF-Europe Conference

This year's conference - "Paradoxes in Facilitation" - is being held in Helsinki.  It runs from Friday 15th October until Sunday 17th.  Colleagues from all over Europe are attending.

To keep up with what's happening during the conference, why not visit the conference blog at http://iaf-conference.posterous.com/.  Attendees will be posting throughout the event including thoughts, reactions and images.

IAF Europe Conference - Helsinki - 2010

 

 

 

 

 

Technorati Tags:

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Strategy Into Action – An Example

Following on from the previous Strategy Into Action post, here is a worked example to illustrate the process in a little more detail.

The process is broken down into two major stages:image

 

 

Action Framework - sets the overall strategic aim and the subsidiary aims that will provide focus and direction (“Focused Directions”). It also considers the obstacles that may be encountered and allows for the end situation to be described to help recognise success when it is achieved - this is called the "Practical Vision"

Action Timetable - the critical part for getting things moving. Taking the information from the Action Framework, this stage identifies owners for the Focused Directions. Actions are identified and assessed against the Focused Directions to confirm they are worth doing and will contribute to the overall strategy. Confirmed actions are also scheduled against a simple timetable: now; in the next 3 months; 6 months; 9 months; next year. A simple schedule of high level actions is produced.

image

  

In the original post, 5 questions were introduced, which if answered, would lead to an a first pass strategy and action plan. 

Responses to questions 1-4 may be structured using the Action Framework stage. Answering question 5 provides the list of actions that are defined further in the Action Framework stage.

 

    image

image

imageIn the example here, managers have considered what is needed for the future of their organisation's Internet service and arrived at the Action Framework illustrated.

 

Next, they moved to the Action Timetable stage and listed and defined actions, paying particular attention to the "obstacles" they need to overcome and the things they need to do to achieve the "practical vision".

  

imageThe actions have been mapped to the relevant "direction" - the directions now providing useful streams of activity. Each of these was assigned an owner for delivery.

The actions were also scheduled against the broad timetable: now; next 3 months; and so on.

      

 

 

image

As you can see from the illustrations, all of this was captured and refined using a software tool, in this case MindView Business Edition from MatchWare. Using a tool such as this an outline report of the work can be created by exporting the analysis and planning to MS Word.

  

 

To better understand the schedule of actions we can use MindView to create either a timeline view or a Gantt view. These provide a better view of what is going to be done when. Additional work may amend the schedule and break down the actions into more detailed tasks. This may be done using the Gantt feature of the software or the data may be exported to MS Project.

image

image

 image

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Weave A Great Meeting?

image

There is a visual tool to aid communication and networking at conferences and within organisations – and it’s far more exciting and useful than a mere delegate list or internal phone directory.

imageIt's called "Weave" and it lets you build an online view of everyone at your conference, meeting or organisation.

You can include photos, summary biographies, locations, roles, items of interest and, for instance, favourite conversations topics.

imageA visual database is prepared and accessible via the Internet. The list of people may be viewed according to different categories, such as location, interest and speciality.

The idea is to help people "get to know" other people attending the conference or meeting. Armed with this useful information users may find  networking becomes easier, corporate engagement more effective.

imageConference organisers may use the Weave tool to get discussion going before and during the conference.  Online meetings can also benefit as everyone on the call is able to picture the other attendees and know something about them.

There is an excellent online demo and the main website can be found here.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Business Process – When A Map Just Won’t Do

Understanding a business process often involves drawing a map or model of the process.
 
imageA business process map will show key things about the process: the process trigger; the process steps; the flow of work between process steps; the roles involved. 
Annotations to the map may be used to add helpful detail however too much and the map becomes too busy to be meaningful.

imageWhen a lot of information must be documented, supplement the process map with a text document – let’s call it the “Process Definition”. The Process Definition can hold information about many attributes of the process not apparent from a normal process map.
These attributes include subjects such as:
  • scope and ownership
  • policy and business rules
  • exceptions
  • performance measures, SLAs and targets
  • constraints – internal and external such as regulation
  • issues, risks and opportunities
  • business continuity and audit
  • people skills and training.
Depending on why the process is being mapped and defined, the list of attributes for the process definition may be customised to meet the purpose.
image The suggested list of process attributes in the illustration above is available as a MindManager mind map at either BiggerPlate or There’s A Map For That.  The mind map includes supporting notes, examples, tips and templates for MS Word 2007 and earlier.  Word templates are available to download here, either Word 2007 or Word 97-2003.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Strategy Into Action

Everyone will tell you that you need a strategy for your business or department – and they are right.  Whether it is “grand” strategy that establishes the direction for your business overall or whether it is a “tactical” strategy designed to effect more specific changes, it’s a good idea to know where you are going and what it will look like when you arrive.

But many strategies fail to deliver.  There are many reasons for this - one being a failure to turn the big ideas into actions that people can work on.  Sometimes there is a plan but it is too grand and too long in the preparation - by the time the actions actually get started the world has changed and the plan doesn’t seem relevant any more.  Or there is a strategy but no clear idea of the directions to follow, no one is responsible and there is no obvious place to start.  The momentum generated by the “strategic” thinking soon dissipates.

With just 5 questions it is possible in the space of a few hours to generate a robust action plan that will get you moving on achieving your strategy.  You can do this on your own or with your team, in a meeting or workshop, and with or without a facilitator.

Question 1     What is our focus?
Question 2     What are the key directions we should take?
Question 3     What are the obstacles that are blocking us?
Question 4     What to do to remove the obstacles and achieve what we want?
Question 5     What are the immediate, practical actions we can take?

The focus question defines the overall goal and scope – you might already know the answer and just need to restate it.  The key directions are the themes or areas that if followed will lead to the goal.  The obstacles are the constraints, the blockers that will defeat the plan if not addressed – some of the actions will be focussed on overcoming these.  Other actions will address new things that need to be created or delivered.  Consideration of these should be focussed on short term or very short term timescales – what can we do today, tomorrow, this week, this month that get us following the key directions.  Medium and longer term actions can be logged but will most likely be consider later.  Assign ownership to the key themes and the actions.  Document it all – preferably on a single sheet of paper (see the example). Get started.

image
In just a few hours you have an action plan.  It won’t be perfect nor will it be complete.  But it will provide a basis on which to move forward.  New or missing actions can be added as each action is completed.  Keep the plan alive, review it regularly, keep adding the next actions that come to mind.
Acknowledgement: The format of the action plan was suggested by examples using the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning method designed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA).

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Vic's Picks - Mind Mapping Software Survey

Vic Gee runs the Mind-mapping.Org web site and has catalogued every mind- and visual mapping software tool there is - 377 if I have read Vic's summary correctly. 

image Just launched is a new site that takes the catalogue and helps users find the most relevant tools quickly.  In addition they can log their own experience of each software tool and provide a star rating.  As this builds up it will provide a unique insight into "what's hot and what's not" in the world of mind mapping.  The presentation is stunning.

 

Vic has provided a brief introduction to the site at his blog - see "Vic's Picks is here!"

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

MindManager 9 Launched - 10th August

 

MindJet have launched MindManager Version 9 today, 10th August.

New and improved features include:

  • improved start up and general performance
  • built-in Gantt chart and resource monitoring views
  • interactive slide views
  • MS PowerPoint integration
  • MS Outlook integration and synchronisation.

MindManager_Planning

Gantt chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

MindManager_MapSlideShowsSlide view

 

 

 

 

 

 

MindManager_OutlookDashboardsOutlook integration 

 

 

 

 

 

You can learn more from the MindJet website.  MindJet have also released a new promotional video, which you can watch here.

 

Technorati Tags: ,

Friday, 6 August 2010

Developing Decision Making Criteria

Often business rules or guidance are required to instruct or advise people on what to do in given circumstances.  It can be difficult to develop these where there are many considerations or options.

imageTo begin to tackle the problem it might be useful to draw up a decision tree and step through all the questions that might need to be asked.  The example here, whether to retain email as records or not, was drawn using bCisive.  A huge tree results.

dtreeHowever, using a print out of the decision tree, analysis reveals there are possibly only 6 scenarios or situations for which criteria are needed.  Here, the bCisive diagram has been annotated with green and red notes to show the scenarios.  Green indicates a “Yes” outcome – an email should be managed as a record – and red indicates a “No”. 

dcriteria From this analysis it was possible to develop a new bCisive diagram, with the scenarios mapped as “Options”, the outcomes or decisions mapped as “Consequences” and additional criteria or questions mapped as “Requirements”.  Note that it was possible to reduce the 6 scenarios to 4 as the decision criteria for 3 of the scenarios were identical.

image A feature of bCisive is the ability to view the diagram as a text outline.  Copying the outline allows it to be pasted into Word or Excel to create a more traditional document.

image The final product – in this case an Excel table – presents the decision making criteria, outcomes and recommended action in a simple, tabular format.

Although this example has been presented as a desktop exercise using software, the approach could just as easily be followed in a meeting or workshop using flipcharts, PostIts and marker pens.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

More on Slides in MM9

imageIn an earlier posting I described the new "Slides" feature of MindManager 9 - see "Working with Slides in MM9".  The version I was using at the time allowed for the creation of the slide views and for the slides to be printed. 

 

image

A new version of the pre-release software has additional function that allows the information in the "Slides" view to be exported to PowerPoint.

In this simple example, I have first created three slides from a map I made by importing this week's tasks from Outlook 2010.

To save the slides to Powerpoint, click on the drop down menu in the slides pane - to the left of the main screen.  Select "Export Slides to Microsoft PowerPoint".

 

image

 

 

This opens a "Save file" dialogue - enter the file name and select the folder location for the PowerPoint file.

 

 

 

imageA new dialogue box pops up offering you several choices. You can export your slides as a text outline - each slide will be converted to a bulleted list on a PowerPoint slide.  Or you can export the slide contents as PowerPoint objects - the map structure of the slide will be recreated as PowerPoint drawing objects.

image

 

The bulleted list option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

image

 

The PowerPoint objects option.

Obviously one then has the option to edit the objects and reformat them to suit.

 

 

 

 

Other options let you select your preferred PowerPoint template and whether you want to export any topic notes as PowerPoint speaker notes.

Technorati Tags: ,

Thursday, 15 July 2010

MM9 – Export Topic to Outlook

Whilst the function for exporting tasks to Outlook that existed in MM8 appears to be missing from the review copy of MM9, it is still possible to export topics to Outlook as either tasks or appointments.

Apologies to those of you who know of this option, I have only just discovered it (Doh!).  For those of you who don’t and want to export topics to Outlook, you can do so as follows:

  • Select a topic (just one at a time)
  • Right click on the topic
  • Select “Send To” from the menu that pops up …
  • … then select either “Microsoft Outlook as Task” or “Microsoft Outlook as Appointment”
  • View the Outlook task or appointment that opens, edit it and save and close
  • Repeat for additional tasks – one at a time.

image I have occasionally exported tasks, appointments and emails from Outlook using the MM add-in however my review copy did not install this to Outlook for MM 9. 

I don’t know if any of these apparently missing Outlook functions will be available in the final version. 

imageThe new MM 9 Outlook function works on the premise that you run a query from within MM 9 to automatically select and import the Outlook tasks, appointments, emails and contacts you want.  The queries can be edited to fine tune the selections, they can be cloned and edited or you can create your own.  image

See also Andrew Wilcox’s postings for further details: New Outlook Query Functions in MindManager 9 and The Outlook Query in MindManager 9

Technorati Tags: ,

MM9 – Export Topic to Outlook

Whilst the function for exporting tasks to Outlook that existed in MM8 appears to be missing from the review copy of MM9, it is still possible to export topics to Outlook as either tasks or appointments.

Apologies to those of you who know of this option, I have only just discovered it (Doh!).  For those of you who don’t and want to export topics to Outlook, you can do so as follows:

  • Select a topic (just one at a time)
  • Right click on the topic
  • Select “Send To” from the menu that pops up …
  • … then select either “Microsoft Outlook as Task” or “Microsoft Outlook as Appointment”
  • View the Outlook task or appointment that opens, edit it and save and close
  • Repeat for additional tasks – one at a time.

image I have occasionally exported tasks, appointments and emails from Outlook using the MM add-in however my review copy did not install this to Outlook for MM 9. 

I don’t know if any of these apparently missing Outlook functions will be available in the final version. 

imageThe new MM 9 Outlook function works on the premise that you run a query from within MM 9 to automatically select and import the Outlook tasks, appointments, emails and contacts you want.  The queries can be edited to fine tune the selections, they can be cloned and edited or you can create your own.  image

See also Andrew Wilcox’s postings for further details: New Outlook Query Functions in MindManager 9 and The Outlook Query in MindManager 9
Technorati Tags: ,