Project management : visualize your timeline with XMind fishbone


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.

Lisez cet article en français !

Here I’m using a method in three steps :

  1. Brainstorming : to gather the content of the project
  2. Asking questions about all the dimensions of the project : When, Why, Who, How, Where, What, How Much ?
  3. 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.

An iMindmap mind map illustrating the principles of a project management timeline
Timeline principles with iMindMap !

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:

XMind Fishbone Left Headed Structure in the Properties Menu
Select the Fishbone structure

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 !)

Project Management Timeline : visualize your project growth step by step
XMind Fishbone Timeline

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.

Did you like this article? Sign up for my newsletter and never miss any item or event!

Advertisements

XMind 2012 : with the revisions, you always know where you are !


XMind 2012 comes with interesting new features.  Revisions are one of them.

This brand new feature shows you every step of your mindmap drafting.

You always know where you are.  You can always go back.  And for collaborative work, it is important to trace back the changes made by members of your team…

In the previous article, I wrote about the brand new Gantt Diagram which turns XMind 2012 into a more business oriented software with great project management tools.

Today, I will emphasize another great feature of this new XMind version : the revisions.

A history of your mindmap drafting

Revisions show you the drafting of your mindmap step by step : like a photograph of each step of your mindmap.  It is a very interesting feature if several members of a team or of a class are working together on the same mindmap.  Each of them can see what the others have changed.

Here is the final mindmap of the Calix Project we have used in the previous article.  (Click on the picture to enlarge it).

Example of project management with the new XMind features
Project management with XMind

But what were the steps of this mindmap drafting ?  How did I get there ?  Wasn’t there a better version of my mindmap ?  Or was there a step I finally dropped, but I could use somewhere else, in another mindmap ?

Review every step of your mindmap !

The Revisions tool allows me to review each and every step of my mindmap.

For this Calix project – which was initially written in French – I added, at the fifth step – a topic “Objectifs”  (Goals) with a picture.  Finally, I decided to discard it to simplify my mindmap and to focus on my main topic : tasks management.  Here is this discarded step, visible again thanks to the revision feature. (Click on the picture to enlarge it).

How to review your previous work in Xmind ?  By using the Revision features !
Revisions in XMind 2012

This is a very interesting feature for team work but also for students who want to rebuild the reasoning from scratch, for instance.  I am pretty sure you will find new applications for this amazing tools !

Do you want to mindmap with XMind too ?  Then visit the download page and get it for free !

Did you like this article? Sign up for my newsletter and never miss any item or event!

XMind 2012 : still more efficient !


XMind 3.2.1. had already improved a lot compared to previous versions.

XMind 2012, the latest version, comes with more good surprises !  A more business oriented Mindmapping program ever.

Check out here !

XMind is cheap, powerful and user friendly : that’s why we love it so much !

Today, it comes with the new 2012 version : not a great revolution, but some powerful and very interesting features.  And above all : business oriented features !  But features equally interesting for students, projects leaders, and so on.

Themes and templates opening with the new page

So the days of the sad blank page with the bluish central topic are over !  Now, when you open a new page, you automatically get a set of themes and templates.  Which saves you a lot of time !

Themes and templates open automatically with the new page in the new XMind 2012 version. A good way to save time !

So now, you can define the background colour, the type and thickness of your branches, the shape of your topics before you start drawing your mindmap !  You can also choose to start with a mindmap, an Org Chart, a SWOT analysis, a Time Line, etc.

The button on the left inferior corner of this window allows you to add your own themes and template : this will save you a lot of time on page layout !

You can also open a existing document from this dialog window : this is much more ergonomic than before : all commands are gathered in a single, manageable area.

A new Gantt Diagram

This is an amazing feature for business owners and project managers : before, the Gantt diagram was a little bit too basic.  The new version is much more complete : it is now a real project management tool !

Here, I made a simulation of an email campaign project with task distribution for a team of 4 colleagues.  I combined the mindmap view with the Gantt view so you can see the relationship between both.  I drilled down the mindmap so we can focus on the topic “email campaignand its subtopics. (Click on the map to enlarge it).

Gantt view

For instance, Juliet – the long red line on top of the diagram – has to encode the names of the subscribers in a list.  She started on the 12th July.  Her deadline was the 31st of August.  She achieved 76 % of her task.  Marc – second line on the diagram – had to write the text of the letter before the 27th of July and didn’t finished before the deadline either.

New Tasks relationships

Both tasks are displayed with a danger triangle board.

Another very interesting new function is the possibility to link two tasks : the second one cannot start as long as the previous one is not completed.  For example, in the picture below, Marc had to put links in the newsletter after having written his text.  But the text has not been finished and the tasks ‘links” cannot begin !  If I click on the yellow icon, a text in a bubble warns me that this task must be postphoned, since the previous one has not been achieved. (Click on the picture to enlarge it).

The panel on the right tells me that there is a “Finish-to-start” relationship between the predecessor ‘Writing” and the present task “Links”.  “Writing” must be finished so that “Links” can start.  Now, the tasks function allows you to program not only the date of a deadline, but also the number of days and even hours that you estimate which are necessary to achieve this task.  That makes this new version of XMind, a real project management tool !

And the XMind teams promises to go further and to improve the Gantt chart in the future.  XMind is thus more and more business and project management oriented !  It is a new position on the market of business mindmapping programs.

In future articles, we’ll speak about the pricing and some other interesting features for all the XMind users !  Stay tuned 😉

If you want to download XMind 2012, it is free !