Practices and Techniques for Project Issue Management – Step-by-step Process.

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Practices and Techniques for Project Issue Management – Step-by-step Process.

Usually, every project begins with a plan. Immediately the project starts to unfold, and the drafted plan will have to be tested in several ways – through unexpected questions and challenges. Often if the course of the project is hanging on the balance, then that question or project has become an issue that needs to be resolved. Every issue arising in the course of the project must always be addressed to ensure that the project plan is maintained. Challenges can pop up at any time in the course of the project. However, they must be dealt with promptly without the benefit of predefined solutions. Typically, project challenges entail project deliverable itself and often occurs in the form of unexpected technical difficulties, incompatibilities, or other conflicts. Nevertheless, in the course of the project, there is a likelihood that other issues would pope up relating to project schedules and resources or unexpected changes in the environment within which the project is carried out.

What is project issue management?

Project issue management process involves identification and resolution of problems in a project within the business, organization, or social platforms. Many people confuse risk management with issue management. Looking at their definitions, it appears that project issues and risks are the same things. However, the two are different. Risk management involves the identification of a potential challenge that may arise in the course of a project and devising a mechanism to avoid such difficulties.

On the other hand, project issues are problems that have already manifested themselves in the course of the project. The project team is already aware of them. A project issue is a problem at hand that is actively interfering with a project and is putting the success of the project in doubt. Though the difference may subtle, risks differ from issues in terms of predictability and approach in management. A project risk is a challenge that may or may not occur while a project issue has already been identified – it is a problem at hand. project issue management is therefore a strategic management procedure that enables businesses and organizations to detect and provide effective response to the emerging trends in the business environment.

Why Project Issue Management?

Throughout the project, task problems need to be recognized, controlled, and addressed in an attempt to make the project at hand useful. Issue management performs a significant part throughout the lifecycle of the project in preserving the project’s efficiency and effectiveness. It helps to identify and address barriers that may hinder the completion of a project at hand or prevent the group from attaining its objectives. Managing problems aim to define and record and fix these problems by analyzing and carefully studying all appropriate data.

Unresolved problems can be a cause of dispute that delays or prohibits the project team from achieving its objectives. The project manager is responsible for managing and monitoring issues efficiently periodically, monitoring problems with problem holders to guarantee advancement towards settlement and reporting on the state of the issues.

Getting Ready to Manage Project Issues

The fact that one cannot predict issues during the start of the project does not mean that one should not be prepared to handle them once they pope up. Every project should start with a defined process for issues management. At a minimum, practical issues management practices should cover the following process elements. The below questions must always be addressed.

What Are the Goals and Objectives of Your Project?

·         What are the available tools that would be used to resolve and track issues as they arise?

·         How will the issues be raised to the project steering committee?

·         How will the project issues be reviewed and assigned?

·         How will they be monitored and tracked for timely resolution?

·         How will the issues be escalated if they cannot be fully solved and closed?

Issues Development

Typically, issues have a lifecycle. The lifecycle comprises of different stages, that is; from initial stage to dormant stage. As the issues evolve through the initial stages, it gets a lot pof attention and eventually becomes unmanageable from the stakeholders’ point of view. For instance, when the issue management team in the organization identify a problem in its early stage, there are always response choices available at the issue management table for the strategic decision makers. However, as the problems continue to grow, the number of engaged personnel become entrenched, and the strategic options for management available diminish. If the issues reach the crisis stage, it often attracts a conservative approach to solving it rather than a proactive approach. It is critically important, therefore, that any issue is identified in time and responded upon to avoid further crisis.

What Should You Consider in Project Issue Management?

Two essential factors need to be considered during the issue management process. These two factors must be embraced from the outset for the success of the whole process. The first one is the resources. Usually, managed issues need the right resources. When a problem has been raised, the resource assignment must be made. The relevant project team members should be involved, depending on the nature of the issue and its magnitude. For instance, an unexpected bug in software is likely to be assigned to a team member with technical expertise to solve the problem or track it with a vendor. Likewise, an issue of administrative nature such as inadequate resources for staging a project may be assigned to facility overseer or manager who may be having limited involvement in the other aspects of the task at hand. Issues must always be resolved quickly with little fanfare. It is vital to assign tasks to individuals who can hit the ground running whenever possible.

Secondly, to manage any given issue, there is a need for timely communication. The saying that time is money holds in this regard. Issues management success depends on the ability to track and report issues status right from the time the issues have been raised, assigned, through to resolution. This can only be achieved by effective issue communication, either delivered in meetings or through documentation of status reporting. Also, depending on the complexity and nature of the project issue at hand, communications may be made through regular meetings where the concerned assigned groups may brainstorm on the status of the issues raised and the alternative remedies to such problems. Such meetings offer opportunities to project team members to gain new insights and new perspectives on resolving the problem at hand. To ensure that issues are properly tracked and managed, meetings can be held either on a daily or weekly basis.

Steps to Issue Management

Step 1 – Issue awareness

The first step in resolving project issue is awareness stage. At this stage, the organization recognizes that its project is being swamped. The project team must then gather relevant information relating to the issue at hand. Afterward, the organization would identify the scale or complexity of the problems faced and understand their cause and effect on the overall project. This stage is often referred to as scanning as the project team scans through the issues at hand and strive to identify their causation.

Step 2 – Categorize

Usually, when an issue has been raised, the individual reporting the problem does not care whose mistake it is; instead, they want the item to be fixed. Sometimes, project managers are very tough on individuals who have reported the problem. In this second step, the project manager must separate the issue-reporting process from the determination of accountability as this may cause some emotion out of the situation at hand. Identifying the actual cause of an issue needs in-depth analysis which can only be enhanced by not reacting to unexpected failure, which has led to the occurrence of the issue. The project manager must categorize the problems as an organizational problem that need to be resolved and not as a project team member’s failure in their duties.

Step 3 – Organization and Prioritization

Sometimes, expectations for an immediate fix to an issue can be tempting. During the project issue management process, there must be prioritization of resources on how to handle the stalemate without being in a rush. The project team management must identify how far-reaching the issue may impact on the organization and its prospects. They should then assess what is at stake, that is, whether it is the reputation of the organization or profit of the business. They should identify how immediate the issue is.  Afterward, there should be prioritization in the allocation of the resources to resolve the issue at hand, beginning with the most immediate one.

Step 4 – Analysis

Having prioritized which issues to need to be resolved urgently, the issues are analyzed in detail. The project management then determines the probable impact of such issues to the organization. After that, the issue support teams can be established if need be.

Step 5 – Strategy Decision

Strategy decision is a critical step in project issue management. The organization must create an appropriate strategic response to the issues at hand. Before devising the right strategic intervention, the project management team must determine strategic options that are available to the organization. They should then identify resources that are required for the implementation of the strategy chosen. Besides, the project team must identify the type of actions to be taken for the success of the plan developed and by whom. There should be constant communication among the groups involved to ensure there are no gaps in the strategic option the project team has settled on.

Step 6 – Implementation.

Putting in action an issue resolution system is critical to project issue management, but making it useful and usable is paramount. Having identified the right strategic option for the resolution of the issues raised, the management must then implement the strategies arrived at. The project team members should be encouraged through positive communication, as this will encourage participation and feedback. During the implementation process, nothing complex should be adopted in a single step.  The implementation process must be carried out with a lot of keenness, and any rush is avoided.

Step 7 – Feedback

Feedback is vital in the project issue management process. Without feedback, a system-based approach is blind. Ensuring issues are fixed the ultimate goal of the project team management. There should be constant feedback on the progress during the implementation process. This ensures that all the teams and individuals to who duties were assigned remains steadfast in the issue management process. Remember, working smarter, not harder, is the key to the accomplishment of every project.

Step 8 – Monitoring and Evaluation

Usually, what is essential today for the organization may not be relevant tomorrow. The organization should always monitor the value of what is vital at present alongside what may be relevant tomorrow. Closed issues must be kept from reappearing in the future through monitoring since this is the long term progress. The matter having been managed, continuous monitoring and evaluation allow the project team to identify the potential areas that may need improvements. Assessing results enables the organization to determine the success of the strategies used and determine plans that may prove meaningful if similar issues occur. Furthermore, monitoring and evaluation allow the project team and the overall organization to capture lessons from failures and success.

Why Use the Above Issue Management Process?

Developing a plan for issue management is critical. Project issue management process would help the organization or the individual whose business is faced by a myriad of issues to identify and record the project issues clearly and to determine the impact that the problems raised may cause to the business or organization. Similarly, the issue management process enables the organization to prioritize the issues raised and report on their status. This would allow the organization to do a review of the problems, then decide on the appropriate course of action. More importantly, the issue management process helps the organization to take the necessary steps required to remedy the problems at hand.

The organization’s ability to identify and solve issues promptly will always impact on the success of the project team involved. The issue management process would enable the organization to achieve this. This will happen if the organization describes the steps taken to resolve issues efficiently and swiftly.

When Should One Use Issue Management Process?

Issue management process can be used by individual business, an organization, or a company. Whichever level, one uses the project issue management process upon encountering issues that need to be solved swiftly and quickly while undertaking specific tasks. Examples of issues that may arise in the process of task management include but not limited to lack of enough resources to manage a project that is underway inadequate funding, and tight deadlines. Irrespective of the circumstances involved, the issue management process covered herein would help you to get what it takes to take the right measures for the problem at hand.