Project Issues and Issue Management

A project issue is a problem that has been encountered in executing project activities.  This problem impairs a project’s ability to successfully complete.  A project issue is almost always one of these:

  • A difficulty in completing a work item/task that is already on the project’s plan, or
  • The discovery that a work item/task (that is necessary for project success) was not identified or scheduled in the project plan
The identification of an issue demands a response by the project to eliminate or minimize the impact to the project.  The methods of identifying and addressing issues are collectively termed Issue Management.

Issue Management in its most basic form is simply:

  • Identifying a needed work item.  This might be a task or milestone on the project plan that cannot be completed as planned or it might be a new project task (one not already in the project plan).  Sometimes these work items are called action items that are associated with a standing project meeting (e.g., a weekly project status review meeting);  some project managers note these work items on a project issues register and review this list in a periodic issues tracking review meeting.
  • Resolving the issue by ensuring that this new work item(s) is completed successfully
Because this seems so straightforward, many project managers tend to use ad hoc methods in managing project issues.  Ad hoc methods may work well for a small number of issues, but are unlikely to be effective and efficient for a larger number of issues.  Ineffective management of issue resolution creates problems, particularly for projects that are experiencing a large number of issues:
  • Wasting time/effort/energy in managing issue resolution
  • Delaying the completion of issue resolution
  • Concealing information that should be used in planning subsequent projects
The purposes of the issue management process are to:
  • assist the project team to identify, validate, analyze, plan and resolve the most important issues impacting a project.  
  • provide timely, accurate, and complete communication on project issues.
The Issue Management Methods presented inside PM Notebook can help you implement an effective method of handling project issues and in preventing a large set of Issue Management Pitfalls from visiting your project.