The definition of an issue is that it is a problem that will be detrimental to the success of the project and cannot be totally resolved by the project team. That definition leads you to understand that issues must be addressed quickly.

If a problem is indeed being classified as an issue, the project manager must take responsibility for getting it resolved. The project manager should have an activity in the schedule every week to follow-up on open issues to ensure they are being diligently resolved.

By the same reasoning, if there is no urgency to resolve the issue or if the issue has been active for some time, you should look again to see if it really is an issue. It may be a potential problem (risk) or it may be an action item that needs to be resolved at some later point. Issues by their nature must be resolved with a sense of urgency.

Try to Solve the Root Cause, Not Just Symptoms

When issues arise, they should be solved as quickly as possible. However, try to resolve the root cause of the issue, not just the symptom. Solving the root cause will ensure that the problem does not resurface later in the project. The root cause can usually be found by asking a series of ‘why’ questions. Why did the issue arise? When the question is answered, ask yourself ‘why’ again, and again. When you cannot answer the ‘why’ question again, you are probably close to the root cause.

Sometimes You have to Make Decisions Among Bad Alternatives

After reviewing the process and the techniques for managing issues, you may think that you should be able to successfully resolve every one if you only knew the right technique. In fact, you may find some issues that do not have good, clean solutions. It may be difficult in some cases to determine any good options for resolution. Other times, issues arise that are hard to resolve not because of a lack of options, but because of the difficulty gaining approval and resolution among a number of alternatives. In other cases, you may have a number of options that are less than optimal, and the ultimate resolution may be one that is the least offensive.

An example of this dilemma is an issue that involves internal politics. Usually when a problem starts to get mixed up with internal politics, you will find that the resolution is difficult because there is more to the decision-making process than a cool examination of the facts. When a problem becomes political, in fact, a resolution may be approved that is actually far less than optimum for the project team. However, a less-than-perfect solution may be preferable to deadlock or the prospect of an even worse alternative approved.

In these situations, try to get the approvers to understand that a delay in the resolution decision usually does not make the result any more palatable. The project manager should strive to gain a resolution as quickly as possible so that the project can move forward. If the issue is political, the project manager will usually need to rely heavily on the sponsor and other management stakeholders to help in the resolution.

Ask Team  Members to Identify Problems and Solutions

Issues can come from team members, clients 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 them 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.

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