Previously, in Managing a Simple Plan, I have illustrated how a simple plan might be managed using MS Outlook and mind mapping software (MindView).  Using the same starting point the plan might also be managed using a Gantt chart.

Making a Plan

As before, follow the 5 step procedure to create a plan. 

 

Replace Garden Shed

In this instance I’ll use the plan referred to previously for replacing my garden shed. 

The initial ideas for the plan are added to the MindView template and refined until the list of steps is satisfactory. 

Add dates to each step to be included in the plan.

 

To get a Gantt view of the plan using MindView is simplicity itself –  from the “View” menu, select the “Gantt” view.

Gantt

All the elements of the plan are listed as tasks in the MindView Gantt view.  The timeline is created automatically from the dates entered previously, creating the typical Gantt view of tasks over time.

Replace Garden Shed Gantt

If you go on to manage the plan using MindView you can update the tasks with progress and status or you can edit tasks and add new ones.  MindView also includes a project reports function which creates a snapshot of the project for viewing in a browser.

Replace Garden Shed report

Or if you prefer you can export the plan to MS Project.

Replace Garden Shed Project

Managing a Simple Plan

April 11, 2011

In the last post, I introduced a basic planning procedure to help ensure simple tasks are achieved efficiently and with minimal prevarication (see A Moment’s Reflection Before Action). 

Making a Plan

In that post I mentioned briefly the possibility of adding the steps as tasks in Outlook, should this be your preferred way of managing things.  In this post I wanted to demonstrate how this might be done using mind mapping software, such as MindView.

The planning procedure suggests a very simple template, with three main ideas to set up as main branches: Aim or Goal; Steps; Obstacles.

Replace Garden Shed

Working first with the “Aim or Goal”, add ideas to the template.  Make a list of the the things you think need to be done to achieve the aim or goal – add these to the “Steps” branch.

Replace Garden Shed Plan

Also make a list of the possible obstacles and what steps might be taken to overcome them – add steps from this list to your main list of steps where there is a high certainty that they will need to be done (for instance, in the example of “Replace Garden Shed”, review of the obstacles identifies that having asked my brother for help I will need to remind him because he is a forgetful soul – this is shown on the map by the red link).

Replace Garden Shed Plan dates

Next add dates for when you expect to start and complete the steps (in MindView open the “Task/Timeline Info” tab and set “Show Branch Data” to “on”).

To export the steps to Outlook as tasks is easy.  First set the MindView map to show only the sub-branches of the “Steps” branch (use “Branch Focus”) – these are the items that you want to become tasks in Outlook. 

Then follow the MindView menu options for Export to Outlook.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook 1

To keep the resulting task list separate and clearly identifiable from other Outlook tasks, create a new task folder in Outlook to receive the exported items from MindView. If it helps, you might want to think of the goal and the steps you’ve planned as a simple project, with its own folder.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook new folder

Complete the export and find the task folder in Outlook.  Typically the tasks are displayed as detailed list, sorted in date order.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook task list

Alternatively, the list can be displayed in Outlook using a timeline view.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook timeline

Either way you are now ready to begin managing your simple project using Outlook.  You can mark tasks as complete as you go.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook task complete

Should you wish, you might want to retain the original planning view created in MindView but with updates from Outlook as progress is made, such as when tasks are completed.  You can do this by synchronising the MindView map with Outlook whenever you want an update.  Follow the export options in MindView to Outlook, this time selecting “Synchronise Tasks” instead of “Export as New Tasks”.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook task complete sync

Set the synchronise options to pick up the changes from Outlook.

Replace Garden Shed Plan export outlook task complete sync options

Complete the operation and the MindView tasks will be updated.  In this example, two tasks were marked as complete in Outlook.  This is now reflected in the MindView map – in this example the original plan view has been filtered to show only completed tasks.

Replace Garden Shed task complete sync filter

Something needs to be done.  Maybe a report needs writing or maybe you need to book a holiday.  Whatever it is, a moment’s reflection before diving into the action might help you achieve whatever needs doing more efficiently or with less prevarication.

When the need for a simple task first arises, it is sometimes easy to dive straight in.  However after some hard work you might realise that you’ve taken a wrong direction, misunderstood the brief or just gone off at half cock.  In other situations it can happen that you start thinking about what the the finished article might be, what it might look like, where you might go or what people might think of what you’ve produced.  Before you have even started on the task, its apparent difficulties or the effort that might be involved start to grow in your mind.  The task then seems more complicated, risky or time consuming than at first thought and procrastination creeps in.

To help you focus its worth taking just a few minutes to devise a simple plan.  This can be broken down into five steps:

  • Decide the aim or goal – what needs to be achieved
  • List the small steps you will take to achieve the goal
  • List the obstacles that might get in your way
  • Make a mini-plan of the small steps you will take to overcome each obstacle
  • Consolidate all the small steps into a simple list and review the list.

Then do the first actions now.  Make a start – you might not be able to book that holiday right away but you can take the first steps towards it – doing some research; deciding a budget; finding out where everyone wants to go; checking prices and so on.

Making a PlanThe mind map summary (created using MindView) includes additional focus questions to prompt you and help you stay focussed.

The plan you produce can be as simple as list of things to do with some idea of the order in which to do them.  Alternatively, you might want or need to set some dates against each item or note to whom you might delegate a step.  Depending on what you come up with, you might set the steps as tasks in Outlook, for instance, or go even further and create a small Gantt chart or timeline.

You might not be able to identify everything you need to do at the first attempt but you will have enough to encourage you to make a start.  Ideas for additional steps will arise naturally as you execute your simple plan.

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When creating a business (or any other kind of) report a good place to start is to note down your thoughts and ideas using a mind mapping tool, such as MindView 4.  Normally you will want to end up with a nice text document that you can issue, using MindView you can export your mind map to Word very easily to achieve a finished product.

Structure

Once the initial ideas are entered you can then move them around, establish a sequence and consolidate ideas.  New ideas will occur during this initial process and can be added quickly to the map.

Text placement Having established the report structure, text can then be added to each element. You might begin by adding the text as sub-branches to the the report headings.  If you can, rather than creating sub-branches, add the text as text notes.  This makes the export to Word very simple and results in very little further editing being needed. 

Text notes

MindView works with Word templates by assuming that branches equate to headings and sub-headings in the report – assigning Word "Heading" styles to these in hierarchical fashion …."Heading 1", "Heading 2" and so on.  If you leave any text as a branch this will be assigned a Word heading style. 

For efficiency and near perfect results on the export first time, make sure your text is held as text notes against the relevant branch.  Text notes are normally exported as the Word style "Normal".  This means that you can add text at any level of the report and have it come out formatted consistently throughout the document.

Doc

So when creating a business report using MindView, remember:

  • Headings at any level – create as branches
  • Text – create/paste as text notes attached to the relevant branch.

Footnote:

If you do create body text as sub-branches you can cut and paste these as text notes.  This is a little tedious but saves lots of time fiddling with Word styles later.  MatchWare might want to look at the process of converting branches and multiple branches to text notes to make this restructuring of initial ideas even easier.

 

In previous posts I introduced an approach to defining strategy and the action plan that will implement it.  See:

The approach lends itself particularly well to group work in workshops.  Prior to the workshop, individuals or teams each prepare their part of the vision and some initial ideas of what needs to done over a given time period. 

They arrive at a working draft by progressing through a number of stages:

  • answering focus questions
  • identifying key directions
  • entering the details of their emerging vision on a template
  • entering their ideas for an action timetable on another template
  • transferring the template entries to flip charts ready for the workshop.

image

One idea for a workshop is to invite other managers and experts to help the teams review their initial ideas. 

Vision EGTimetable eg

 

The pre-prepared flip charts are posted up and everyone encouraged to walk around, understand the content and ask questions. 

 

 

 

New ideas can be logged directly on the flip charts or as PostIts.  This might be broken down into simple steps:

  • Walk around, read and understand the flip charts
  • Ask questions, make challenges and suggest ideas
  • Further review of the annotated vision and timetable
  • Consolidate any cross-team components such as overall headcount, costs and benefits
  • Finish with an open session to identify next actions.

 

MindJet have announced the release of MindManager 9.2.  Enhancements include:

  • Topic alerts – now operate without MindManager being open
  • Support for task duration of less than 1 hour
  • Gantt view filtering
  • Task dependencies now compatible with MS Project
  • Cut and paste marker groups between maps
  • and more ………

Gantt Filtering

See the latest post on the MindJet Blog.

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imageMatchware have released Service Pack 1 for MindView 4 and MindView 4 Business Edition.  You can access the update by running MindView and letting the software check for updates automatically – this will open your default browser and take you to the download page. 

Or you can go to the by clicking here to go straight to the download page and start the download.

Follow the instructions and MindView 4 will be updated to build 150.

The download page lists the changes made in this version.

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