Monday, 28 June 2010

Milestone Planning

Question: Is there an effective way of producing a milestone plan using mind mapping software?

image Mind mapping and other visual mapping techniques are great for generating a list of milestones for a project.  Using mind mapping software, the milestones are created as a set of topics.  Most mind mapping software will let you set “when” dates and owners (probably as “resources”) for each milestone. 

mileYou will also have a range of formatting choices and structures to alter how the milestones are displayed.  This is a great for a simple set of milestones.  Next you will want to add dependencies between milestones, to create what some practitioners might call a milestone path.  You will create these dependencies using relationships.  The normal links between topics and the parent or central topic are not relevant to the milestone path and many mind mapping applications will let you hide these.

MilestonePlanSo far so good.  Now, what if you want to add sub-milestones or high level activities to each milestone?  In milestone planning, these sub-milestones need to be achieved (or passed) on the way to reaching the overall milestone.  Before it can be said that Milestone 1 has been reached, Sub-Milestones 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 have to be reached first.  Such a scenario is normally modelled in linear fashion (in logical and chronological sequence) and in appearance might look like an inverted hierarchy. 

imageMind mapping software generally assumes a "top-down” hierarchy – but this would place the milestone above or before its sub-milestones, as in this example. 


Graphic1What we want is the sub-milestones to come before or above the milestone “parent”, as in this mock up.


imageA compromise solution is to accept the in-built top-down hierarchy as is and to use relationships to indicate the sequence in which the milestone plan is to be read.  It might look good but its not necessarily easy to understand.

Has anyone else tried mapping milestone plans using these tools? 

What solutions did you come up with?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

(sorry, in my previous post I forgot to identify myself)


Thanks for this post - it summarises the dilemmas and options of milestone mapping very well.

To make things easier in these sorts of maps I use an org-chart layout for the main milestones and tree layouts for the sub-topics/sub-milestons. This makes it slightly easier to distinguish between the relationships between milestones and those between sub-milestones.

If you have a lot of milestones then an org-chart view can get a bit clumsy, but you probably should be using something other than mindmapping software to manage your project.

A lot also depends on whether the sub-tasks are also milestones which must be completed in strict sequence. If they do, then you have to use the approach you describe.

However, the order of completion of sub-tasks is not always so important. The milestone comprises a number of discrete tasks but they are not necessarily dependent on each other. Indeed, some can be undertaken at the same time as others, just as long as they are all completed.

In this scenario you don't have to establish relationships for the subtasks as long as you can roll them all up into the "parent" milestone (this is using MindManager). In this approach all the sub-tasks still have to be ticked before the milestone shows 100%, but the order of their completion is unimportant.