We all need a map (yes fellas, even you). Maps are tools to navigate in areas that are unfamiliar. They hold immense amounts of information in very simple forms. Maps help us to remember where we have been and how to get to where we are going.
We navigate in unfamiliar media every day. The trick is to know how to make a map when there isn’t one around. Below are some basic ideas on how to make a map of a project, a development plan, or a strategy. Let me know your thoughts.
- Start with an idea. Vague is okay when starting the process. You may not know where you will end up, but have an idea of the outcome.
- Lay down the rough lines. Outlining is useful and so is creating nested topics. If working a project, think about significant milestones that have to happen to reach the end.
- Start to fill in the detail. This step is progressive and iterative. Once you start filling in details you will have to refine other parts of your map and revise. This leads to more detail.
- Think of different ways to deliver information. Maps use symbols, lines, numbers, legends, etc. Think of how you might incorporate the same into your map. Using different colors or thicker lines to demonstrate impact or size is a simple way to add information (large cities have a different symbol and are usually in bold type on a map).
- Proofread. Have someone else try to navigate using your map. That is the ultimate test. Can he get from here to there? This is useful for strategies, procedures, presentations.
- Make it easy to read. You don’t want people to have to stare at your map for days before they know how to use it. But don’t forget that people need to be trained on how to read maps. You didn’t know how to use a map before you were taught and you probably haven’t seen a map like the picture above unless you are a pilot.
Maps can be graphical, linear, or simply post-it notes on a wall with string. It’s about organizing the information and making it available to others. These are skills any leader or project manager must have to be successful.
How have you used maps in your life?