While I was at GameSpy one day our CEO decided that I needed some “project management training” and that I should get some post haste. I acquiesced, pinched my nose, and signed up for a Stephen Covey class on project management. I figured if the company was paying for it, I could at least go until lunch.
The class itself was pretty worthless. The instructor was a skilled presenter and public speaker, though, and he did teach me a wonderful new word: Boffo. As in “Sharpen the saw and everything will be boffo.” He kind reminded me of the J. Peterman character from Seinfeld, both in appearance and the way he talked. About half the class centered around boffo platitudes like “Do the important stuff first” or “Write stuff down so you don’t forget” or “Ask people what the hell they want from you before you do anything for them.” The other half of the class involved ineffable truths disguised as catch phrases like “Sharpen the saw” or “Wax the skis” or “Choke the monkey”.
In short, it was almost a complete waste of time. There was, however, one exception to this other than adding “boffo” to my vocabulary. They taught us a note-taking and thought organization technique called “Mind Mapping”. If you’ve never heard of it, mind mapping is a kind of graphical note-taking technique where you write down ideas or concepts, then link them to other ideas, and branch sub-ideas off them. I like it much better than free form note-taking or bulleted lists, especially when you’re trying to capture a lot of data on the fly.
So I’ve used the technique often to organize my thoughts on things like new product features, website design, database design, and project plans. The other day one of my co-workers showed me a software product called Mindjet that does mind-mapping on your computer. I fiddled around with it and mapped out a strategy for building datasets for a test validation project I’m working on. Here’s the result (click for a larger version):
It’s a really well designed piece of software, one that manages to add a bunch of extra functionality while keeping the simple stuff –creating a mind map– easy to use. Most programs clutter themselves up when they add useless features, but this one doesn’t.
Unfortunately, the trial I downloaded only lasts 21 days. The only thing that’s keeping us from registering it is the price. It’s $300 per user, which is expensive for a program of such limited use. Heck, that’s almost as much as MS Office Pro (which does MUCH more), and a lot more than something like TurboTax, which is more similar in scope. I’m not sure who at Mindjet is doing their pricing, but I have to wonder if they’re selling many copies.