The ability to identify and manage issues on a project is a key task for any project manager.
When I’m managing a project I like to think of issues as tasks or items that need to be analysed, resolved, or discussed in order to have decisions made about them. They are those things that come up during the life of your project, that stop it from running smoothly.
Project Managers often overlook issues, and that is when they find down the track, that their project has gone pear shaped and is way off track.
So here are some simple tips for identifying and managing issues on your project:
1. Be on the alert for simple comments by project team members
Some times the simplest of comments in a project team meeting, can actually be an issue. If you hear someone say “I’m not sure how that will work”.. you have yourself an issue. This simple response is something that needs to be called out, analysed and a resolution found for, otherwise you could have a bigger problem on your hand.
Similarly something like “But, we haven’t covered that in the business requirements”, or “That isn’t called out in the business requirements”. This is another issue to be tracked.
2. If it’s stopping your project it’s an issue
If there is something that is stopping your progress, halting development work (for example) then it’s an issue.
This is one of the best ways of identifying issues. I will talk more about when these issues become risks to your project, but for now know that if it’s creating a problem, no matter how small, with your being able to deliver on time/on schedule, then it’s an issue.
3. Use some form of tracking document
A simple Excel spreadsheet is great for tracking issues because you can circulate it, store it centrally for everyone on the team to access. I like to have a date, the description of the issue, who is responsible for resolution, and the agreed time frame for resolution. That way I can track with each person what they are responsible for and how they are progressing against the agreed time frames. This is an item that can easily be shared with the project team at team meetings.
4. An issues register should be used by all of your project team members
Everyone should be able to add issues to your issues register. This ‘register’ for want of a better word is not just for the project manager. This is important. You want your team to be raising issues so that they are visible to everyone. You might be surprised how issues are resolved when everyone on the team has buy in into them.
5. The bigger the list the better
I prefer to have a long list of issues that are being worked on and closed, than not have them tracked. Why? Because as I mentioned previously, at least then they are visible and I can manage them (as the PM). If they aren’t on the list, I have no way of knowing what is and isn’t being worked on. So, encourage your team to add their items to the list. It will benefit everyone in the long run if they do.
6. Remember, issues aren’t risks
Risks don’t belong on this list. If there is a risk identified whilst you are working on your issue tracking, make sure that you capture it on your risk register. Don’t confuse the two.
If you have other ways of identifying issues, I’d love to hear about them. Please post in the comments.
Written by Karen Munro
*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net