Gantt Head has an article about the use of Mind Mapping (free login required) in project management. Mind Mapping is a powerful paradigm for capturing and organizing information that is hierarchical in nature. Projects are primarily hierarchical, starting with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
The WBS is a fundamental tool for projects. It describes the work to be done in terms of deliverables. Effective January 2009, the seminal WBS document, the MIL-HDBK-881A became a standard MIL-STD-881, mandating a WBS for Department of Defense programs.
881A makes a clear and concise statement...
The word PRODUCT is critical here. No functions - design, code, test, no level of effort - manage design, code, or test. PRODUCT.
The examples of the Mind Mapping all violate the mandatory principles of 881A and the suggestions in PMI's Practice Guide for Work Breakdown Structures.
Now I know WBS's are the most exciting topic in the world of project management, especially IT project management. But in large construction and Aerospace and Defense, we live (and die) by the WBS. Not only is it mandated, but the WBS is a contract document. The WBS tells the buyer (the government), what the selling (the contractor) is going to do for the money.
In both cases (DoD and PMI) the elements of the WBS are the products that will be produced by the project or program. These products start at the bottom of the WBS and roll up to the completed System. This system can be a spacecraft, a wheeled vehicle, a suite of avionics products, a working telecommunications systems. But they are always products, never the functions that create those products.
There are some "thought leaders" in the PM Domain, with large resumes that will claim the WBS has more flexibility than that. Don't believe them for a second. The DCMA (Defense Contract Management Agency) would toss them out into the parking lot after the audit.
Here's what the WBS does
Done is not the design, the coding, or the testing. Done is the product. The subsystems and systems that make up the product. The customer did not buy "design." Design is absolutely necessary for the product to appear. But the customer bought the product, not the process that produces the product.
This is annoying in many ways:
- You have to sit down and figure out what the deliverables actual are
- You have to structure these in some well formed "tree"
Mind Mapping does this. Use it to build your WBS. Ask for each node in the tree - "is this a product or a part of a product?" If not, keep trying to build the WBS, because you don't have one yet.