If a problem arises that the project manager and the team
can resolve, it’s just one of the many fires that
will ignite and be put out in a given week. However, an “issue”
arises if outside help is needed.

An issue is defined as a problem that will impede the
progress of the project and cannot be totally resolved by the project manager
and project team without outside help.

You would not expect that small projects will have many (if
any) issues. There just is not enough time to get into many large problems.
However, the larger your project is, the more likely you will encounter issues.
Very large projects, for instance, may have a dedicated person that does
nothing but help to identify, document and expedite problem resolution.

A formal process for managing issues will ensure that the
problems are identified and resolved as quickly and effectively as possible. Consider
the following process as a way to formally manage these project issues.

  • Solicit
    potential issues from any project stakeholder, including the project team,
    clients, sponsors, etc. The issue can be surfaced through verbal or
    written means, but it must be formally documented using an Issues Form. (This
    may seem a burden, but an issue must be formally defined before it can be
    communicated and resolved effectively. If an issue cannot be documented,
    there is no way it can be resolved.)
  • The
    project manager determines whether the problem can be resolved without
    outside help or whether it should be classified as a formal issue.
  • Enter
    the issue into the Issues Log. The Issues Log contains one entry per issue
    and is used for tracking purposes.  
  • Assign
    the issue to a project team member for investigation. (The project manager
    could assign it to herself.)  The
    project manager should also determine who needs to be involved in the
    decision making process.
  • The
    team member will investigate options that are available to resolve the
    issue. For each option, she should also estimate the impact to the project
    in terms of budget, schedule and scope.
  • The
    various alternatives and impacts on schedule and budget are documented on
    the Issues Form. The project manager should take the issue, alternatives
    and project impact to the people that need to be involved in the issue
    resolution (from step 4).
  • If
    resolving the issue will involve changing the scope of the project, close
    the issue now and use the scope change management procedures instead to
    manage the resolution.
  • Document
    the resolution or course of action on the Issues Form.
  • Document
    the issue resolution briefly on the Issues Log.
  • Add the
    appropriate corrective activities to the workplan
    to ensure the issue is resolved.
  • If the
    resolution of an issue causes the budget or duration of the project to
    change, the current Project Definition should be updated.
  • Communicate
    issue status and resolutions to project team members and other appropriate
    stakeholders through the project Status Report, status meetings and other
    appropriate communication means.

Having this type of issues resolution process defined ahead
of time will allow you to calmly and effectively work through a problem
resolution process whenever issues arise.

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