How to visualize the different stages of your project? How to draw a clear and efficient timeline? Answer: with XMind ! And by using a very peculiar structure : the fishbone, also known as “Ishikawa”, from the inventor’s name.
Here I’m using a method in three steps :
- Brainstorming : to gather the content of the project
- Asking questions about all the dimensions of the project : When, Why, Who, How, Where, What, How Much ?
- Visualizing the project steps with a timeline
In this article, I will emphasize more on the 3rd step.
I already used a timeline to help startups creators to visualize their project on the long run. I also used a iMindMap mindmap to explain the principle of such a tool.
Last week, I had the opportunity to lead a workshop regarding “project management with visual thinking” in Belgium and I applied that three steps technique and, of course, a timeline during the session.
A timeline with XMind fishbone
XMind offers the fishbone or Ishikawa structure as their default timeline. Unfortunately, the default timeline provided by XMind start menu is on a yearly base which is divided into quarters. Regrettably, it is unsuitable and doesn’t synchronize with our needs.
Hence, we’ll create our own timeline by starting with the “blank map” and choosing the “Fishbone structure”.
To do so, open the Properties Menu in XMind. Click on the Structure command and select “Fishbone (Left Headed)” as shown below:
At this point, the mind mapping software gives us a Central Topic in the shape of a fishhead, directed to the left side of our screen.
What is the first move? Should we start with the dates? Or perhaps should we key in the main stages of the project and later add in the dates?
Planning your project stage by stage
Finally, we selected the second option. Why? Because if we illustrate a past project, we can surely key in any sort of date as the data given have already come to pass. But for a project which is still in progress or has not yet begun: many unexpected things can still happen along the way and could change its course from its original path!
Here is our final version of this Project Management Timeline, built upon the Fishbone structure. (Double-click on the picture to maximize it – you can also download that timeline for free on my Biggerplate page !)
Mark the length of an activity with a relationship
Note the use of the relationship to express the length of action. In fact, all the steps do not necessarily follow a strict chronology.
For example, the advertising stage began at the start of the project, but continues up to the candidate selection stage. We expressed this relationship using a red dotted line underlining the subject “Advertising” and linked it to “Selection” . The best convenient way to visualize the entire process.
To avoid any overlapping or interfering the subjects written on other branches, we chose the ” Zigzag” option to the relationship line. This technique follows the rise of the central branch to the topic “Selection” without compromising the readability of the timeline as a whole.
Clarify project milestones with markers
Note also the use of markers – these small images delivered with the software – and of a Legend (situated on the lower left side of the mindmap and which explains the meaning of each marker). We used the small blue and green characters to symbolize the candidates for training. We used the bomb to illustrate a risk: emphasizing the deficiency number of candidates to start training !
We finally used the exclamation point to show that this step was conditional : we will make a new mailing with the Unemployment Agency if we do not have enough candidates. If we fill in, this step will not take place .
The Legend explains the function of these self-explanatory symbols more clearly. To display markers in the Legend, apply the following procedure : first, click on the background of the mindmap to avoid selecting any subject. Click the “Properties” menu, check the little box next to ” Show legend ” . A Legend is displayed at the end of your mouse pointer . You can place the Legend wherever you want on your mindmap. In this case, mine is situated on the lower left side of the mindmap. The Legend is updated automatically as and when you add or remove markers.
To change the text next to the marker in the Legend , just double click it and the text field appears! Fill in your own text. That’s it!
Try it for yourself and plan your project using this technique and do not forget to send us your comments or mindmaps.
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