Stephen Blower and I carried out a workshop recently demonstrating how various models can be used to capture and communicate pertinent information. I wanted to support this with a post or two to demonstrate how this approach can be used in the field.
I’m quite a fan of mindmaps for my own notetaking. Historically though I’ve not found them to be quite so useful for tracking or communicating issues. I’ve also not been a huge fan of XMind in the past. That’s been changing recently as I’ve gradually been using it more and more for exploratory testing and test management activities. Yesterday was the first time that I really used it in anger in the context of a group discussion, and I’m totally converted!
The context was a go-live/don’t go-live meeting with lots of complicated issues that needed to be considered and weighed in order to reach some kind of a consensus. Since I was facilitating the meeting I wanted some way of visualising all of the various factors that a) provided a clear picture of where we were actually at and b) didn’t send everyone to sleep in the process.
I decided to plot everything out in XMind, taking advantage of the icons made available out of the box – emoticons, flags and the like. Before the meeting had started I’d basically been able to group and break-down the issues so that it was very clear:
- What the issues actually were – branches, with associated ticket (bug) references where available.
- What the current status of the issue is – child-branch with flag and prognosis.
Once the meeting began I was quite pleased to find that this was actually a really good way not only to visualise where we were at, but to really engage with the issues, work through them and use the resulting information to arrive at a clear route to the desired goal – getting our finished system into production.
The finished map is below. The agenda effectively came from the PO and was more than adequately covered during the course of the meeting. The key was an afterthought, modified and added to as we went on. The options branch was added towards the end of our meeting by which point we knew exactly where we were and simply needed to identify next steps – the two branches with backup plans A and B.
Of course, I wouldn’t necessarily broadcast this information in the form it’s in currently. For starters I’d have to buy an XMind licence in order to export the mindmap properly. But hopefully it’s pretty clear how useful this approach might be in working through the finer points of a complicated situation.