Thursday, 10 November 2011

MindGenius Comes to Biggerplate

Today Biggerplate added full support for maps created using MindGenius.  Now you can add MindGenius maps to Biggerplate and access a library of maps available from today.

To see maps created by me, several of which have been featured on the Peace of Mind blog, click on this link to Biggerplate.

imageTo find out more see: http://biggerplateblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/mindgenius-comes-to-biggerplate.html or visit www.biggerplate.com.

If you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the web site and try the product free for 30 days.

Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.

To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST

 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Risk Management - An Action Plan

If a risk analysis exercise is to be meaningful, it needs to result in an action plan to mitigate the prioritised risks.  Defining and implementing the action plan is the last of four steps introduced in the previous post - Risk Management - Analysis to Action.

Having identified, assessed and prioritised the risks, next consider and define a mitigation plan for each risk.  Summarise the risk strategy (Reduce; Share; Accept; Avoid), what will be done and how it will be achieved.  Guided by the mitigation plan now define, assign and schedule the actions necessary to deliver the plan.

This can be achieved using mapping software - always great for brainstorming and creativity. 

List the risks as level 1 topics or branches.  Attach key attributes of the risk to each of these topics or branches, using icons or category markers, for instance:

  • A marker for Likelihood and another for Impact
  • A marker for status or progress
  • Assign an owner using a label or task resource
  • Capture the mitigation plan summary as a sub-topic.

For each risk, next add the list of actions that will deliver the mitigation plan.  Assign resources and dates to these and you have a simple plan.

To get an idea of what this might look like in practice, here is one approach using MindGenius.  This illustration use as simple template map.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window 

To start, first add the risks at level 1 and add the attributes using Categories and Task markers.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

Next add the summary of the mitigation plan.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

Then add the actions with resources and dates assigned.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window 

A simple example for a change management programme looks like this.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

You now have several choices as to how to publish the plan and maintain it over time, for instance you may:

  • use the MindGenius map as is to review progress and maintain the actions
  • use the MindGenius Gantt feature
  • export the map to MS Project and integrate with the overall project schedule
  • export to MS Excel.

Here  is the example map as a MindGenius Gantt chart ....

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

.... and here is a MS Project plan.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

Exporting to Excel offers additional options, especially where communicating the plan to a project group not familiar with the other formats.  First step is to select 'Export to Microsoft Excel' and choose your options.  In the following example, the key options selected are:

  • 'Apply MindGenius styles' (the text formatting on the map will be applied to Excel - great if you have a preferred MindGenius template style)
  • 'Flat Export'.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

With these options selected, the template produces a spreadsheet that looks like this:-

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

With a bit of formatting it looks even better ....

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

A general word of warning - if you use any of the export options and the plan or document you are working with is likely to go through many iterations, try to resist formatting the output beyond anything simple and easy to replicate - you'll have to format it again every time you regenerate it from MindGenius or whichever tool you are using.

__________________________________

imageThe images used in this post were created using MindGenius.  If you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the web site and try the product free for 30 days.

Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.

To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Risk Management - Analysis to Action

If you are new to risk analysis and risk management, the impact for your project can seem like a draw on resources with little benefit.  However, if viewed as contributing to the identification of deliverables and the tasks that produce them, risk management begins to make sense.  The key is take the analysis through to the end and identify actions to be addressed.

Risk management in this context can be seen simply as four steps, the:

  • Identification of risks
  • Assessment of their likelihood and impact
  • Prioritisation of the risks and the responses to them
  • Implementation of actions that address the prioritised risks.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

Prioritisation of risks will involve looking at the overall context and strategy of the organisation, the objectives and constraints of the project and the desire and resources for action (the so called 'appetite for risk').

Actions to address risks will be determined by the approaches chosen for each, typically falling into one or more of:

  • Reduce - prevention, mitigation and/or contingency
  • Share - transfer risk via insurance or outsourcing
  • Accept - "live" with the risk because the likelihood is very low or the cost of reduction or sharing is too high
  • Avoid - stop doing the activity or action that carries the risk.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

It is common practice to record the key attributes from this analysis, together with the initial decisions, in a risk register or log.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

The register is the critical input into the final, action planning step.  The resulting plans will contain a mix of deliverables that:

  • Prevent or reduce the likelihood of the risk arising
  • Mitigate the impact of the risk should it arise, including the planning of budget and resources to deal with the problem should it arise
  • Contingency plans that minimise the impact and restore the situation.

The deliverables and actions are then integrated within the overall project plan or, if appropriate, assigned to owners outside of the project for attention.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

In the next post I will illustrate a simple approach using MindGenius to generate action plans to address individual risks.

_______________________________________________

imageThe images used in this post were created using MindGenius.  If you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the web site and try the product free for 30 days.

Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.

To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST

Monday, 26 September 2011

SWOT Analysis - Brainstorming Ideas

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window In previous posts on the subject of SWOT analysis, the initial steps in the process have been identified as:

  • Define the goal or objective
  • Brainstorm and review strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) in the context of the objective.

The key consideration before starting the analysis is to establish and agree the focus, whether you are working on your own or with a group in a meeting or workshop. Before any idea generation, determine what is the objective to be analysed and which feature(s) of the organisation, product or individual are to be examined in a given work session.  In facilitation terms, we talk about identifying the focus question.

For a SWOT analysis this focus question will include reference to the objective and define the scope or context further, such as:

  • Given our objective, what is it about the situation of our organisation/products/staff that needs to be addressed by strategy.

An example of this is:

 SWOT - Objective image

Use this focus throughout the SWOT analysis - keep coming back to the objective - there may be many internal and external factors that might be considered but not all will be relevant to achieving the objective.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

Stay within the context of the analysis. For a given session, it might be decided to focus only on selected capabilities, resources, performance or assets. This might be driven by the need to define strategy for a given market or product or for operational improvements. The focus might be on people, processes or technology. Agree what this focus needs to be and then work with it.

It is also useful to think of a next level of focus questions to help with the idea generation and to help control the analysis session.

If you are using MindGenius to undertake the SWOT analysis, you can use the 'Question Set' feature to define the questions and to use the question set to help drive the initial idea generation and analysis. This can help:

  • Maintain the focus
  • Break the idea generation and analysis into more manageable chunks
  • Stimulate ideas
  • Sequence or group the ideas.

A very simple question set created in MindGenius looks like this:

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

The questions set may be used with the normal map creation/editing mode or with brainstorm mode.

In brainstorm mode, open the relevant question set, select each question in turn and add the ideas.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

Each idea can be linked to the question it relates to - in this example it is useful to know whether an idea is a strength, weakness, opportunity or threat, for instance. If ideas come up that relate to questions reviewed previously, then move back to the relevant question, select it and then add the idea. However this is not critical as the ideas will be reviewed again later.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

When complete, create a map from the brainstorm, selecting the option to create a 'Question-Centric Map'.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

Use this new map to review the ideas generated thus far, expand on ideas or to add new ones.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

Change the layout, amend the formatting, add notes and categories - whatever helps the review and refines the output.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

More sophisticated question sets will provide further focus, segmentation and depth. Take a look at the default question set for SWOT analysis to see an example.

_______________________________

imageThe images and slides used in this post were created using MindGenius.  If you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the web site and try the product free for 30 days.

Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.

To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

SWOT Analysis - Getting from Ideas to Action

In the last post - SWOT Analysis - So what? - I introduced the SWOT analysis tool and how it may be applied to the development of strategy and action plans.

SWOT simple

The approach to using the tool might be summarised into 5 steps:

  1. Define the goal or objective
  2. Brainstorm and review strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) in the context of the objective
  3. Review the SWOT and brainstorm strategies or high level actions to address each idea
  4. Review each strategy or high level action, identify detailed actions to implement
  5. Schedule the actions to complete the action plan.

Mapping software is ideal for this kind of planning and I'll take you through the 5 steps using MindGenius to illustrate one possible approach.

Having defined an objective, next complete the brainstorm of the SWOT attributes.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

Capture high level strategies for action against each SWOT idea.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window 

Using the 'Analyze' function of MindGenius, assign categories to each of the elements of the map: SWOT template; the brainstormed SWOT ideas; the high level strategies or actions.  Filter the map to leave only the high level strategies or actions visible. Export these to a new map using the 'Create Category Map' function.Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

This gives a simple map listing only the high level strategies or actions.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window 

This may be reviewed, refined and restructured or taken as is. Taking each strategy, add detailed actions to the map.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window 

Next, schedule the detailed actions - actions with dates (and owners and resources) become more real.

In MindGenius, switch to the Gantt view. Schedule the actions, create dependencies, set durations and assign resources.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window 

The resulting action plan may be managed using MindGenius or it can be exported to MS Project. The action plan may be refined further, more detail added and so on.

Click to see full size image - opens in a new window

This simple example demonstrates what a simple yet powerful tool SWOT analysis is. The critical, creative part is the generation, review and evaluation of ideas and actions. Depending on the purpose of the exercise, the context (large or small company, for instance) and the level of governance needed, include in your plans time/effort for consultation, review and approval as well as for a number of iterations.

This example also illustrates how a mapping tool such as MindGenius can help you with each step of the process, creating strong visual documentation as you go.

In the next post I'll show how MindGenius can help with the initial brainstorming by the use of "Question Sets".

______________________

imageThe images and slides used in this post were created using MindGenius.  If you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the web site and try the product free for 30 days.

Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.

To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST

Technorati Tags: , ,

SWOT Analysis - So what?

SWOT analysis is a useful tool for the development and evaluation of strategy and action plans. The acronym - SWOT - stands for: Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunities; Threats.
SWOT simple
The analysis is usually applied within a specific context, from the viewpoint of; an organisation or company; a product; a project; an individual. The time to use it is when a goal or objective has been set and you are defining the strategy or plan to achieve it.
Analysis of an organisation, project or individual might be interesting but to derive meaningful strategy a clear focus is needed. This is provided by a goal or objective, such as to expand the company, enter a new market, implement major changes or to gain promotion to the top level. With the context and goal as the focus, the analysis then considers:
  • What will help to achieve the goal
  • What will impede progress
  • What can be taken advantage of
  • What must be overcome.
The definitions of each element of SWOT are simple:
  • Strengths: positive advantages to the organisation, thing or person; internal factors that are within your control
  • Weaknesses: internal factors that will hinder the achievement of the goal and that are within your ability to influence
  • Opportunities: external factors, relevant to the achievement of the goal - providing motivation or an advantage, consider when these opportunities may be present and for how long
  • Threats: external factors, outside of your control which present risk to the achievement of the goal, identify their likelihood and possible impact.
From this, you can see that SWOT provides more than just a one dimensional analysis, it helps identify:
  • Positives and negatives that will impact achievement of the goal
  • Internal and external - within your control or not
  • Time frames - now and the future.
SWOT matrix SWOT analysis provides a model for you to consider these dimensions together, as illustrated by the figure above.
The key thing to get across is that the analysis - listing the factors against each of the SWOT elements - is only part of the process.
SWOT - Objective Improve operational efficiency and effectiveness whilst reducing risk of process failures 2a Once you have done this first step, you will be ready to ask yourself, “Ok, I've made some lists - I sort of knew most of this already.  But what do I do next to get some real value from this - how do I formulate a plan or strategy?”
The next step is to take the ideas and create an action plan or strategy:
  • Review the ideas captured - what strategies come to mind?
  • Maintain or build on strengths
  • Weaknesses to be fixed, changed or stopped
  • Opportunities to be grasped, when and how
  • Contingencies to overcome or mitigate threats
  • Review the actions - create one or more plans with timeframes
  • Review the plan(s) and evaluate alternatives
  • Ask the question, "How well does this help with achievement of the goal?"
  • Select the preferred strategy, assign ownership and start to act.
SWOT - Objective Improve operational efficiency and effectiveness whilst reducing risk of process failures 2b As always, click on the images to see full size.
In the next few posts I'll show how aspects of SWOT analysis and planning can be achieved in practice.
______________________
imageThe images and slides used in this post were created using MindGenius.  If you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the web site and try the product free for 30 days.
Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.
To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST
Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

5 Reasons to Use MindGenius on Your Projects

Over at TechRepublic, Andrew Makar lists five reasons to use MindGenius on your projects.  These are:

  1. Create maps faster with better usability
  2. Better branch navigation and map organisation
  3. Faster organisation of ideas
  4. Ask better questions with Question Sets
  5. All the other PM stuff you'd expect but better.

Click on this link to see the article in full at TechRepublic.

What's your experience?

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________

If you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the web site and try the product free for 30 days.

Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.

To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST

Technorati Tags: ,

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Are Mind Map Topics Just Bullet Points by Another Name?

Mind mapping applications such as MindManager and MindGenius are now coming with built in presentation tools that help you:

  • Create a presentation
  • Create visuals to support the presentation
  • Present the visuals you have prepared.

You may be familiar with how they work ... having created a map, these tools help you select topics and branches to include in your slides.  They give you more or less control over which topics to include in each slide and what level of sub-topic or sub-branch they are drilled down to.

MapofPresentationHaving organised what you want to say using a map, it is possible to create slides from the topics very quickly - real advantage especially when pressed for time.

 

 

TopicsasBulletsBut beware!  If all you do is build a set of slides presenting snap shots of the topics on your map you may end up with slides containing not much more than bullet points in disguise .....

 

To get around this ....

1. Design the presentation using mapping software - there are lots of advantages

2. Treat the map as both the story board and script for what you will say

3. Identify the key places in your script where you will support your words with a visual - a slide

4. Insert a topic at this point ... If the visual is ready, insert it ... If it isn't, leave a note or two to act as a place markerWord Script with slides added

 

 

 

 

 

5. When all the visuals are ready and included in the map, build your slides and include only the topics containing the images or pictures you have selected.

image 

A final thought about bullet points ... or bullet topics ... there will be times where a list of headlines is a useful thing to present as a visual - an agenda for instance or a summary of the key topics presented at the end to help the audience remember what you have just told them.

MG Presentation

 

 

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________

image

The images and slides used in this post were created using MindGenius.  If you would like to know more about MindGenius, do visit the web site and try the product free for 30 days.

Should you decide to buy MindGenius, Peace of Mind Blog can offer a 10% discount.  Just use the discount code at the checkout on the MindGenius web site or quote the code in any correspondence with MindGenius.

To claim the 10% discount please use the code:  MGELST

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Keyword Networks - The Bigger Picture

In a previous post (Clickable Keywords from WikiSummarizer) I introduced the "clickable" keywords feature of WikiSummarizer

This feature allows you to follow your train of thought from a review of an initial summarised article through a network of related articles.  This is done by clicking on a keyword within a summary and WikiSummarizer will present a summary of a Wiki article for that keyword.

 

It would also be great to get a visual image of the resulting network of interrelated summaries, linked by the selected keywords.  An application to do this is not available currently (is it?) but one approach that is reasonable for a small network of linked keywords is to use a mind mapping application.

The idea is to download each WikiSummarizer summary as it is found to the mind mapping application.  Next copy and paste each summary into the initial map as floating main topics (that is, a floating topic that has child topics like the central main topic does).  Once you have all the keyword summaries pasted in this way you can then connect the keywords using relationships.

image Here is a finished example using summaries download directly into XMind.  (You can achieve a similar result using MindManager).  The keyword path is highlighted by icons (in this case, an unlocked padlock), shading in red and the links drawn as relationships. (Click on the image to see a full size version.)

In the example, we started with an article on "Carl Jung". One of the keywords in the returned summary is "psychology" so a summary was found, downloaded, copied and pasted onto the "Carl Jung" map.  Interest was then aroused in the keyword "individuation" and a summary was found and added to the map as before.  This led to a further summary for "personality" being added.  A review of the resulting diagram showed shared keywords between summaries and these were linked with relationships.

This simple example shows how it is possible to build a visual network of the key topics associated with a subject, built up from a review of several (or many) summaries and the links between common keywords, resulting in a broader, deeper and richer picture.

Now wouldn't it be great if you could do all of this working with a single map and have the links made and highlighted for you as you go ..........