Issue management can be defined as the process of recognizing and resolving various issues arising within a project. The life cycle of a project is never absolutely smooth. There are bound to be questions and unexpected problems that come up every now and then. However, if a good issue management process is in place, then it becomes easier to deal with any problem before it escalates further.
Some of the common problems faced in nearly all project cycles include:
- Technical failures
- Issues concerning vendors or suppliers
- Shortage of resources, materials, staff, finance, and so on.
All these issues have the potential to negatively impact the progress of your project. In the absence of any resolution, these issues could lead to unnecessary delays, conflicts and even failure of product/service delivery.
Is escalation required?
The establishment of a long-term communication system for team members of a project is critical for maintaining the pulse of the project and predicting challenges beforehand. While it is difficult to avoid certain challenges like global social unrest or disturbance in the supply chain management, it is actually the routine situations that a project manager confronts on a daily basis that test his/her effectiveness. Before escalating any problem to a superior, a project manager should try working with these internal resolution techniques:
1. Create a ‘problems log’
What are problems in a project? They are gaps, conflicts or inconsistencies. A good way to deal with mundane issues is to record them as and when they occur. In other words, you can create a ‘problems log’. It works as an efficient tool for identifying and communicating the problems occurring within a project. It allows for the various issues to be raised at the right time so that a thorough investigation can be done for quick and effective resolution. Delay in raising the issues is the primary cause for them having to be escalated. With a problems log, you can easily monitor and allocate responsibility for every issue to specific team members.
2. Design a framework for issue resolution
Just having a problems log will not be helpful. A project manager also needs to come up with a process or a framework for resolving various issues. A framework is a systematic way of understanding what needs to be done with the issues after they have been identified and reported.
A framework allows a project manager and team members to answer certain key questions in the face of a problem. For instance, it might help enlighten them about whether or not the issue needs to be escalated to the management or stakeholders. This can become clearer by creating a template of issue complexity versus possible business impact.
Studies suggest that project managers spend more than 40 percent of their time trying to reach agreements with team members when a conflict occurs. For a project manager, the management of conflict within a team demands the ability to resolve personality differences, set goals, reach compromises, and ultimately solve the problem.