The ability to identify and manage issues on a project is a key task for any Project Manager.
Think of issues as tasks or items to be analysed, resolved, or discussed in order to have decisions made about them. Issues 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.
Here are some simple tips to identify issues and manage them:
1. Be on the alert for comments by project team members
Some times the simplest of comments in a project team meeting, can show you 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. List the item and analyse it. Find a resolution found it. Otherwise you could have a bigger problem on your hand and this issue could turn into a risk.
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, for example something halting development work, then it’s an issue.
This is one of the best ways to identify 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 and to manage issues because you can circulate it, and store it centrally for 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. Issues are resolved when everyone on the team has buy-in to 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.