Issue Management Methodology for Tracking Project IssuesWritten by Grant Murray
1. What is an Issue?
An issue is an incident, circumstance, problem or inquiry that affects or potentially affects timely delivery of project, product or service, it may also impact quality of deliverables and cost of production.
Some projects are ongoing and definition of an issue is a little different. A help desk defines an issue as a request for help that requires a response. A service department keeps track of service requests as issues. A software maintenance group tracks reports of software bugs and enhancement requests as issues.
Because of impact issues have on a project, product development or ongoing service, issue management is an important aspect in any management methodology. This issue management methodology promises to make handling of issues a seamless part of your larger scoped methodologies rather than a process separate from them.
It is usually not hard for team members to identify issues, but it is still worth having a working definition of an issue. Remember that more ambitious your project more issues will arise.
Action item: The project team must be made aware of what issues are, provide some examples, and ask other team members to provide some examples.
A central repository of issue information easily accessible to all team members, because it is good for team morale and productivity to know that their issues are being addressed. An automated central repository like Issue Tracker[http://Issue-Tracker.GLM2.com/] is desirable because it make issue management and reporting much easier.
Action item: Choose a central repository for your issues.
An issue manager is person chosen to oversee all issues. It can be project manager, team leader or another person in a responsible leadership position. The issue manager is responsible for making sure that there is consistent, disciplined and continuous progress made on all issues. The issue manager is accountable to upper management for progress made on all issues. The issue manager communicates issue progress to team, upper management and all stakeholders.
Action item: Appoint an Issue Manager and notify issue manager of their role and responsibilities.
This issue management methodology represents best practice for managing issues. However, goal is to have a successful project, product development or service, goal is not to follow a methodology fanatically.
Action item: Adapt methodology so your project's success is maximized.
Issues can arise at any time. When an issue is discovered it is recorded in central repository.
It is important to allow issues to be recorded by a broad group of people including team members, upper management, users, customers, stakeholders, vendors and contractors. It is important because if there are barriers to reporting an issue then there is an increased chance that issue will go unrecorded. You cannot address issues that you do not know about. It is not necessary that everyone has access to central repository, but more you can allow better.
Action item: Set up access to central repository for those people that need it.
Training people to identify issues is often unnecessary, however getting people to record issue in central repository will take some training and encouragement. For example, a team member may mention an unrecorded issue to project manager during a coffee break or other informal occasion, this team member needs some encouragement to record such issues in central repository.
For all kinds of issues, prevention is better than correction. Also, issues tend to be less severe if they are addressed earlier rather than later. This means that every effort should be made to report issues as soon as they are discovered, instead of waiting for issue to become "serious enough" before recording it. Do not be afraid of duplicating an issue or overlapping with existing issues, it is better than missing an issue.
A complete description of cause of issue should be recorded in central repository. Resist temptation to describe issue in terms of a solution. Any implication of issue should be recorded. Attach any supporting documentation, screenshots, report output, faxes, error messages and other media that describes issue.
The person who is recording issue can make a recommendation for a solution, if they have one. This person should also assign issue if possible, even if it is only assigned to issue manager for re-assignment.
When an issue is initially recorded it should be recorded in central repository with a status code that reflects fact that it is new issue and has not been reviewed. An attempt should also be made to categorize and rank severity of issue.
The date and who created issue should be recorded in central repository. This is done automatically for you in systems like Issue Tracker[http://Issue-Tracker.GLM2.com/].
Many teams describe issues in terms of desired solution, leaving others to deduce actual issue. This is not best practice since it limits scope of possible creative solutions. As an example a badly worded issue: "We need more people." There is no indication in this example of what issue actually is, so finding alternative solutions is impossible. If example issue had been worded as "The shipping department has swamped us with product, there is a possibility of spoilage if we cannot get product delivered." With issue worded this way perhaps shipping department can become aware of how there actions are causing issues down line and adapt their actions.
3.3 Initial Review
The initial review is a triage of new issues. It is usually performed by issue manager or deputies who are familiar with scope and priorities of project. If team is small entire team can meet for review. For each new issue status, category and severity are reviewed and issue assigned to someone for action and optionally an owner is identified as follows.
Sometimes same person who records issue may be doing initial review, so these two steps can be fused into one in this situation.
The Ten Pillars of Leadership and Business DevelopmentWritten by Bea Fields
Leadership is any influence relationship that brings about change…this can be a teacher/student relationship, a parent/child relationship, a politician/citizen relationship, a business owner/employee relationship, a community leader/volunteer relationship and peer/peer relationship. These ten guiding principles can support leaders in becoming trusted by their followers and for withstanding challenges of today’s ever-changing world.
(1) Leaders must be willing to be highly visible during crisis.
Enron, WorldCom and Martha Stewart...Their greed and fraud have further eroded trust in people around world, and as a result, corporations and business owners are now operating with a brand new set of rules. Building trust requires a special effort on behalf of CEO or Business Owner to communicate openly, honestly, and often…especially during crisis or tough times. During a crisis, stakeholders want to hear from their leader…they don’t want to hear from his or her spokesperson. They not only want to hear from person at they top…they want to engage in open communication that involves sharing of information and ideas, and they want to know that their voice has been heard. During turbulent times, it is important to take advantage of all types of opportunities for communication, including open forums, task forces, breakfast meetings, media, one on one meetings, and stakeholder surveys. More formal forms of communication strategies include 360 degree feedback assessment or a full communications audit (which may take 2-6 months to complete.) The goal is to communicate openly and often and to continue assessing your communications program every day to insure that a culture of trust is being maintained.
(2) Leaders must be willing to take a stand- based on their vision and their values.
This does not happen in a vacuum…leaders must be willing to admit that they need strong support from an executive coach or a strong mentor who can guide them to doing tough internal work required to shift their thinking and to get off ego trip that many leaders live . They must be willing to carefully explore their values and how they can move their companies in direction of a vision that is unwavering. This takes boldness, and a leader’s stand must be nailed into ground and secured with cement...the stand must be so strong that leader does not become “wishy-washy” during tough times and in face of controversy. Consistency is key, and leader must know and believe in his or her stand on a very deep level...from heart...not because public relations director or Chief of Staff told him or her what to do or say. This is a genuine stand that is driven by leader's authentic value system that never changes.
(3) Leaders must be willing to be fully engaged with four focus areas of their being: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
These areas of being must also be congruent with leader's environment. Leaders of today must be willing to be fully engaged...physically fit, emotionally balanced, mentally tough, and spiritually centered. Leading a strong life is a quest that many leaders run from, because it can be tough, but it is crucial if he/she wants to engage followers in a way that is trusting. I cannot help but think about Tiger Woods when I think about leaders being fully engaged. He is an example of a world leader who is a model of what I am describing. His body is fit, his mind is sharp, his emotions are solid, and his spiritual presence is inspiring. He is being followed by young men from all corners of world and viewed as an inspiring model and mentor in world of golf.
In addition to strengthening four areas of being, leaders must be willing to create a strong environment...one that is congruent with leading a strong life. The environment must be clean, clutter-free and optimized for speed, efficiency, and effectivness. The people and network surrounding leader must be moving forward and fundamentally strong, and activities leaders choose must point to a life that is built for change and is rock solid. If environment is not congruent with goals a leader seeks, her resources, energy, and effectiveness will become drained over time, and people will no longer be willing and loyal followers. They will seek a stronger leader to turn to for direction and hope.
(4) Leaders must be willing to build deep pockets of social capital by designing a network based on diversity.
In book "Achieving Success through Social Capital", author Wayne Baker advocates building of networks based on diversity, In chapter 2, he states: "Diversity provides benefits of multiple perspectives on problems, protection against groupthink, and enhanced ability to collect, process, and digest information. Management teams with members from diverse functional background, for example, perform better than homongenous management teams." Building a diverse network is a crucial step in leaders being able to build a strong business and personal life. It is not uncommon to see leaders develop homongenous networks...known commonly as cliques. This is a dangerous approach, because network does not develop arms and legs it needs to reach four corners of globe, to get resources and knowledge it needs, and it can actually cave in on itself, pulling company down with it. By reaching into different cultures, ages, geographical locations, educational backrounds, and belief systems, leaders can build networks that will yield biggest results and that will be sustainable over time.
(5) Leaders must be willing to overcome growing tide of cynicism in business world and define an upbeat style of leadership.
In article “A Prescription for Leading in Cynical Times” authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of Leadership Challenge discuss this in detail. Cynics are evident in every company in world. They usually believe that human conduct is motivated by self- interest, and they have a disbelief about integrity of others. They have high expectations of world, and they are continually disappointed when people in their lives don’t meet those expectations. To begin working with this challenge, leaders must be willing to drop their own cynical "The World Stinks" attitude and develop qualities that others say are important to leadership such as integrity, competency, ability to relate, visioning, inspiration and drive build a thriving and cohesive team.
(6) Leaders must be willing to push edges of innovation.
I want to begin by talking about difference between innovation and creativity. William Coyne, senior vice president for R&D at 3M once described difference: "Creativity is thinking of new and appropriate ideas whereas innovation is successful implementation of those ideas within an organization. In other words creativity is concept and innovation is process." Innovation always involves treading into uncertain waters, and entering a new territory can be challenging, even for most creative of thinkers. Yet falling behind can be a great deal worse than taking risk to stretch and grow into new markets with new ventures. If companies are to move into future, leaders must be willing to push edges of innovation each and every day. Executing an experimental venture requires planning, and it requires revisiting ideas that your company may have put on shelf years ago, and whose time has now come. It is about zeroing in on best possible strategy, discovering what systems are needed and what processes will be required to get job done and to come out on profit side of venture. Your new offering should meet demands of your customers and should be an improvement over way things are currently being done. As Nike says “Just Do It.” Start today to begin process of innovation, and see what comes about for future of your company…you may just be surprised!