As a business owner or manager, chances are you like solving problems, not creating them. Yet you’ll inevitably run into a few in the course of any given project. Some problems you can predict and prepare for – those we call risks. And then there are problems you didn’t expect. They arise as you work – issues.
For example, you can predict that a demanding project requires hiring extra staff to meet deadlines while avoiding burnout. However, you can’t predict that a key resource suddenly gets ill.
So what is an issue? An issue can be a major problem, but it can be turned into an opportunity. Essentially, it could be anything that can hamper the successful completion of your project. Maybe your main supplier goes out of business, another project is pulling resources away, you uncovered something during testing or changes in legislation negatively impact your project.
Issue management is a big topic. You’ll always find something new to learn. Much like project management, it requires strategy and a process. The following steps will give you a framework to get started.
Step #1: Identify & Report Issues
Of course, the first step to effective issue management is identifying issues. For this, you’ll need issue management software so you have a central database where you can collect the data and keep track of progress. If you don’t have a tool and a process to do this, any issue will ultimately be lost in the shuffle of a project.
Keep in mind that timing crucial. If you delay reporting an issue, even a minor one, you miss the opportunity to resolve it before its impact increases and requires more time and resources. Issue management software eases communication and ensures that the right information reaches the right people. You’ll have a clear view of the process and be able to promptly and accurately identify, implement, and track solutions.
Step #2: Asses Impact & Prioritize
You can’t address every issue without costly delays to the completion of your project, so you’ll have to prioritize. To assign priority levels, you’ll need to consider what issues are most threatening to your project. High-priority means that these issues have the potential to derail the project completely. Medium-priority issues won’t stop the project, but they have a significant negative impact. Low-priority issues can create bigger issues if they go ignored for too long, but they don’t affect key project processes and goals for the time being.
You won’t always know straight away how an issue might affect the project, so you’ll have to brainstorm with your colleagues and think of possible consequences.
Step #3: Review Possible Solutions and Assign Responsibility
Once you’ve decided which issues rank highest on the project’s priority list, you need to think of possible solutions. It’s better to consider several strategies for every item and work with your team to decide the best one. After you get approval, it’s time to put your plan into action.
At this point, accountability is vital. Whoever you delegate tasks to, needs to have a clear idea of their responsibilities. For every issue, you can assign one or multiple team members, but they need to know what’s expected of them, so they don’t move on until their part of the process is completed.
Step #4: Quick Responses
Timing is critical. If you cause reports to wait, you will miss the ability to solve the problem until it is too huge to resolve or takes as much money as a project-buster can be. Communication is important and networks need to be available to get the information out as soon as possible to the right people. If you post promptly, you’ll be better off settling promptly. To sit on a proven topic demands trouble.
Step #5: Fix Log Issues
Let sure people know who should report questions, so do so. If there isn’t anyone logging the issue, otherwise you’ll have trouble slipping between the cracks. Which gives the idea further flaws until finally it’s all falling apart. You want to keep a record of the cycle in-depth. There is nothing too small. It might seem trivial to you, but it may hold the secret to solving the problem. Plus, a log provides an archival tool for future use.
Step #6: Assign Actions
Always place a name next to an event because explicitly established liability remains. Issues are addressed only because there is direct control, someone who is delegated to define, track and close the problem. They ought to have a focal individual being charged with everything relating to the problem and not getting on from it until the topic is resolved. Accountability is important in the handling of problems.