With any project, things will happen that you don’t expect. Issues will emerge. So, how do you do Issue Management?
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What is an Issue?
Risks are familiar. Risk is uncertainty that can affect your outcomes. Uncertainty is in the nature of risks.
Issues are different. There is no uncertainty. Whatever might happened will happen for sure or has already happened. Issues are certain.
So, how do we manage Issues?
You cannot do anything until you are aware of an issue. You need to create a culture of vigilance among your team, and also the confidence to report issues quickly.
Some issues will self-resolve. But many won’t. And some will explode out of all proportion if you fail to deal with them swiftly. So a ‘no blame: no fear’ culture is vital.
Getting this right means having a systematic approach to monitoring your project. A good approach is to set up issue-spotting as a part of one of your regular project meetings. Weekly or even daily check-ins are ideal.
As soon as you identify a risk, you will need to record it in your Issues Log. We’ll look at that in more detail later.
This step is where you need to understand the nature of your issue. Principally, this is the impact (or severity), in terms of:
- stakeholder perceptions
These will help you to assess the scale of the issue.
Big Issue, or Small?
You will also want to think about the scale of the issue and the means you’ll have to control it. All of this will lead you to determine two things:
- Priority of the issue – how much attention it merits (importance) and how soon (urgency). I would recommend a simple priority level to each:
- Vital – Immediate
- Important – Urgent
- Medium – Soon
- Low – As time allows
- Controllability – the effort it will take to control the issue and manage the outcomes
Together these will tell you whether the issue is ‘small’ and therefore something you will deal with yourself, or by delegating to team members.
If it is a substantial issue that you (the PM) cannot fix without blowing the schedule or the budget, you will need to escalate to your project sponsor, project board, or another senior level.
If you are going to escalate the issue, you should do so with a four-part ‘Exception Report’:
- The Issue: what has happened
- Implications: why and how much it matters
- Options: how the issue can be dealt with, along with an assessment of each
- Recommendation: your preferred approach
Plan Issue Response
You’ll assign responsibility for the issue, at the proper level of authority. You may either determine the action to take, or delegate the responsibility – ideally, with a resolution deadline.
Assign an issue to the person best equipped to deal with it. This can be someone outside of your project team. But, if you do allocate it outside your team, be sure they know what they are agreeing to, and that you have a commitment from them.
Finally, communicate the issue to your team and any appropriate stakeholders.
Take Corrective Action
This is where change happens. There may be some problem-solving and detailed planning, but the substance of this step is ‘doing’.
There may also be a need for subsequent actions:
- Creating a change request and handling the subsequent change control process.
- Managing consequential changes to the budget, schedule, or business case.
- If an issue remains unresolved for too long, you may need to escalate it.
Ongoing Tracking and Reporting
Monitoring, controlling, and maintaining a record of issues is a key part of project governance. So too, is incorporating the status of the issues in your regular project reporting. You will use your Issue Log as the primary tool for this.
Project Issues Log (or Register)
There are many fields you could build into your Issues Log (also called Issues Register). My advice is to keep it as simple and trimmed-down as you can. Only record information you need to either:
- properly manage your issues, or
- maintain full accountability, transparency, and good governance.
If you make your Issues Log too complex and hard to maintain, then you’ll find yourself dodging the onerous requirement. Therefore the log will become a sterile document that is incomplete and therefore useless. So, for each possible field, ask yourself:
What will we use this information for?
If you have no satisfactory answer, either delete the field, or hide it.
Recommended Videos to Help with Issue Management (and related)
Carefully curated video recommendations for you:
- What is Issue Management? | Video
- Risk Management 101: An Introduction to Project Risk Management
- Project Risk Management – How to Manage Project Risk | Video
- How to Do Risk Management in Agile Projects | Video
Recommended Articles to Help with Issue Management (and related)
- Issue Management: All You Need to Know about PMBoK’s Missing Process
- Ultimate Guide to Project Risk Management
- How to Build a Robust Project Risk Culture [8 Steps]
What Kit does a Project Manager Need?
I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own.
Note that the links are affiliated.
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