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Musings of an Emergency Manager: How InfoMapping Changed My Life

August 24, 2021

Musings of an Emergency Manager:

How InfoMapping Changed My Life

In everyone’s career, there are transitional or transformational moments. Moments where you look at things in a new way that affects everything you do. For me, one of these moments is when I was introduced to InfoMapping. Essentially InfoMapping is a more efficient way to organize information so it’s easier for the writer to convey, and the reader to comprehend. Since being introduced to it six or seven years ago I’ve used it in every professional position I’ve held since then. It’s most effective for plans and procedures, but I’ve also used it successfully for meeting minutes/notes, agendas, and memos.

Essentially, rather than organizing information in paragraphs with titles or planning documents with nested hierarchies of Roman numerals, letters, and numbers the information is organized in a tabular format. The topic is on the left-hand side with content on the right. Whenever possible you try to use an overarching anchoring statement with bulleted or numerical lists to capture information. For instance, this:


The purpose of this plan is to describe the Example State University command and control functions, emergency response organization, and leadership succession.


This plan applies to the Central City, Tangent City, and Hypotenuse City campuses of Example State University.


As you can see from this brief example there is a stark visual difference between the traditional paragraph layout and the InfoMapped version. Now imagine this applied to a larger document. The subjects on the left-hand side make it easy for the reader to scan through and find the exact topic they are looking for rapidly. Once they’ve found it, the right side presents the key points in a readily apparent fashion. Every document I’ve used InfoMapping on has a cleaner appearance and the key points are more easily accessible to the reader.

I was introduced to InfoMapping by Patrick Sheehan (former colleague, current friend, Director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency) who wanted me to pay for half the price of InfoMapping software and training. Since he’s a sharp guy, I went for it, and I’m glad I did. But what I realized after paying for the software (an MS Word plug-in) is that I could use the existing functions in Word to InfoMap for free. I just needed to take the time to set up tables and adjust the formatting. By creating some template documents it was no problem to use InfoMapping whenever the situation called for it. This has allowed me to use the concepts of InfoMapping at subsequent jobs without having to invest in the software.

Something I didn’t anticipate is how easy InfoMapping makes it to organize my thoughts. When faced with a new project I can’t get my arms around, I start InfoMapping it. Applying the structure helps me break it down into manageable pieces, identify needs and gaps, and put steps in the correct order. Sometimes, it has helped me realize my approach is completely wrong and I need to start over. This organizational structure has been the best benefit of InfoMapping for me.

So if you want a way to make your plans and procedures (but not your novels) more user friendly, check out InfoMapping.

If you want to share transformational moments in your career or topic suggestions feel free to email me.

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