Nick Duffill, CTO of Gyronix and mind mapping strategist extraordinaire, was recently featured on a Mindjet webcast entitled How to Use ResultsManager to Visualize Outcomes. During his informative presentation, he shared a simple technique for visual planning that he calls the "funnel timeline." Although he demonstrated it using MindManager, it can be done using almost any mind mapping software. You don’t need ResultsManager to create this type of visual map, either. Here’s how to create a funnel timeline, and why it’s superior to creating multiple linear lists for project planning and management.
Most people plan by starting from where they are now. That seems to make sense intuitively, but it’s actually hard to decide where you need to go, and how to get there. Outcome-based planning takes the opposite approach, by beginning with the end in mind. In other words, it starts with your desired end state or objective, and then works backwards through time to what you need to do now. Using this methodology, Nick explains, you can more easily evaluate different routes or options to help you to reach your objective. Nick further explained that to-do lists, commonly used by most businespeople, are less than ideal because they’re not outcome based. In other words, they don’t show you what success (your final outcome) looks like, so they often result in false starts and wasted effort. Plus, conventional, linear lists tend to mix together things that are actions with those that are not.
Nick developed a visual mapping technique he calls a "funnel timeline" to help project managers to focus and communicate more effectively than they can with conventional, linear lists.
Here’s a step-by-step summary of how to create one:
1. Enter into your map a brief statement of your outcome, as if it has already been accomplished. For example, "Product X is launched."
2. Next, think of all of the things that will need to be true in order for that objective or end result to happen, and place each of them in a sub-topic to the left of your objective.
3. For each of those subtopics, brainstorm action steps for them. Useful questions to ask at this level of your map, according to Nick, are "What does this mean?" and "What has to be done?" Each of those action steps should also be placed in your visual map to the left of the subtopics you brainstormed in step #2. Continue breaking down each subtopic into more and more finite steps.
4. Add any relationships or dependencies between action steps to your map, using your program’s relationship or connector lines.
What you end up with is a very rough timeline, which can be "read" from left to right. The items farthest to the left are those that need to be done first (or now), the items to their right must be done next, and so forth. What makes this model a "funnel," according to Nick, is that most projects start at multiple points and work their way down to a single end point or objective. In short, he says a funnel timeline gives you a concise view of how your project "looks," capturing its action steps, the sequence in which they need to be accomplished and your ideal project objective.
This segment on creating funnel timelines was only a small part of what Nick covered in this one-hour webcast. To view it in its entirety, please click here.