Issues are problems that will impede the progress of your project, and are not within the control of the project team to resolve. They need outside help. Use these four issues management techniques on your projects.
Understand the Difference Between Issues Vs Action Items
In many cases, project managers are not using the Issues Log to identify and track true issues. Many items that are classified as issues are really risks (potential problems) or just action items. Action items are activities that must be followed-up on at some time. They may not be problems at all. If you find that your Issues Log has dozens of items on it, you are probably tracking many action items. Because issues are large problems, there should not be many items open at any one time.
Ask Team Members to Identify Problems and Solutions
Issues can come from team members or any project stakeholder. It is a good practice to encourage people to help identify solutions along with the issues. When a team member identifies a potential issue, ask him to bring one or more possible solutions. This process will help build accountability among the team members, but it will also help determine possible courses of action. In fact, if a team member proposes one or more viable solutions, the problem may be able to be resolved with the help of the project manager and never reach the level of an issue at all.
Break Very Large Issues into Smaller Problems
If a large issue looks too difficult to be resolved in a timely manner, break it down into logical sub-issues. In many cases, the resolution of an initial sub-issue will drive the solution for the remainder of the issue. If it does not, it at least lets people understand the components of the issue, so that they can be attacked and resolved individually.
Create Guidelines for When Can Team Members Can Make Decisions?
Since issues require outside help they need to be raised to the project manager. Sometimes it might seem that team members do not have the ability to make any decisions at all. You definitely do not want to give that impression. As a project manager, you need to encourage people to accept responsibility and make decisions when appropriate. This helps the team run more efficiently and allows individuals to grow professionally.
As a project manager, you need your team members to handle all the day-to-day problems and only bring items to you on an exception basis. Team members need to ask themselves some key questions before deciding if they need help or if they can make a decision themselves.
- Is there an impact to effort, duration or cost? If there is, the project manager must be involved.
- Will the decision require you to go out of scope or deviate from previously agreed upon specifications? If so, the project manager must be involved.
- Is the decision politically sensitive? If so, the project manager must be involved.
- Will the decision require you to miss a previously agreed upon commitment? If so, the project manager must be involved.
- Will the decision open the project to future risk? If so, the project manager must be involved.
If none of these conditions are true then the team member can make the decision. It may sound like there is nothing left, but in fact, most of the decisions that are required on a day-to-day basis do not meet these criteria and can be made by the team or individual team members.