8 Steps for Better Issue Management


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Issues happen. And if you want your project to be a success, you need to have a plan in place to respond quickly and effectively to any issues that arise. These steps are part of a best practice issue management process and are a core essence of good project management.

What Is Issue Management?

Issues are anything that come up in the course of your project to impact the plan. Issues might be previously defined risks, or not. What you want to avoid is a form of collective project amnesia where issues come up and never get resolved. (Issues have a funny way of resurfacing when they don’t get resolved.)

Issue management in a project begins with a plan that defines activities and business rules to manage and control issues that arise during a project.

Types of Project Issues

Of course, the first thing you need to do for issue management is to identify the issues. There can be many issues, some of which fall under these four categories.

  1. Major Problem: one that could impede progress or the successful completion of the project and requires immediate attention.
  2. Opportunity: not all issues are bad, some can offer an unforeseen opportunity.
  3. Concern: is not a major problem, but it’s something you want to stay aware of, because it could develop into something that requires attention.
  4. Situation: is another issue that might be a concern or a major problem, but develops from a situational standpoint.

Some examples of these issues are problems with staff of suppliers, technical failures, material shortages or delays and super-successful promotion. You can get started logging your issues with our free issue tracking template.

8 Steps for Managing Issues

There is so much to know about issue management. It’s a big topic, and one that every project manager will have to deal with during their project.

Unlike risk, an issue is not a potential problem. An issue is happening in the here and now.

Managing issues is no different than managing a project in that it requires a process and a plan to implement the strategy. These steps will help you have a framework to control issues as they arise in your project.

1. Create Register

The only way to start is by identifying issues and collecting them in a document, so that you can start to respond and track progress resolving them. Ideally create a collaborative document online. In the same way you might manage risks or changes, you want to manage issues by tracking them in a log or register. Without a process or a tool to report on the issue, it’ll be lost in the shuffle of the project. You need to report on issues and notify others, so that others can confirm if the issue remains.

2. Report Promptly

Timing is important. If you allow reporting to lag, you lose the opportunity to resolve the issue before it becomes too large to fix or requires so many resources as to be a project-buster. Communication is key and channels must be open to get that information out to the right people as fast as possible. If you’re reporting promptly, you better resolve promptly. Sitting on a known issue is asking for trouble.

3. Log Issues

Make sure people know who can log issues and that they do so. If there isn’t someone who logs the issue, then you are going to have issues falling through the cracks. That makes more cracks in your project until it eventually just falls apart. You want to keep a detailed record of this process. There is nothing too small. It might seem insignificant to you, but it could hold the key to unlocking the solution to the issue. Plus, a log provides an archival tool for future use.

4. Assign Actions

Put a name next to an action, too, so there is clear responsibility defined. Issues are only resolved when there is clear ownership, someone who is tasked with identifying, tracking and closing the issue. You need to have a point person who is tasked with everything related to that issue and doesn’t move on from it until the issue is closed. Accountability is critical in issue management.

5. Monitor Progress

Are people following up on their action items? Validate status regularly. The status of the issue is a crucial distinction. If the issue has been resolved but resources are still working on it unnecessarily, then that’s another issue. Notify everyone frequently. To prevent allocating unneeded resources to an issue, you want to have complete transparency. Everyone must know the status of the issue to work most efficiently. Project dashboards can keep everyone aware of the issue status.

6. Assess Impact

Define escalation scale and make sure the actions taken are being measured. But escalate appropriately. You don’t want to throw all your resources where only some are needed. That said, you also don’t want to create any unnecessary roadblocks to stall a speedy recovery.

7. Approve Resolution

Make sure that issues are double-checked after they are marked as resolved. While there is an owner to the issue, there must be someone who is managing the process, so they can check the work and make sure it aligns with the overall project and strategic goals of the organization. Only once all those ducks are in a row can the issue be closed.

8. Close It Out

That’s when we come to our final step. Closing the issue. Move resolved issues off the list. That feels good, doesn’t it?

ProjectManager.com and Project Issues

Issues are unavoidable. They’re a part of managing any project. That’s why ProjectManager.com, a cloud-based project management software, has simple issue management tools that tracks issues in real-time. One-click reporting keeps you on top of progress and provides detailed data for presenting issue resolution to stakeholders. Our real-time dashboard generates graphs and charts on various project metrics.

Real time project management dashboards

Plus, online Gantt charts can monitor your issues, which can be assigned to team members, who then have a collaborative platform to comment and attach documents to the issue they’re working on.  If you want to learn more about how ProjectManager.com can assist your managing of project issues, then try our software free with this 30-day trial.

Watch a Video on Managing Project Issues

If you’re more of a visual learner, ProjectManager.com has you covered. We have hundreds of training videos on our site, and even more blog posts that focus on every aspect of project management. In this tutorial video, Jennifer Bridges, PMP, gives you the basics on managing project issues.

Here’s a screenshot for your reference.

Issue Management Tips Whiteboard screenshot

Good luck on your projects!

Pro-Tip: Don’t forget you can track all of your issues in our free Excel template.

Extra Pro-Tip: An issue can be a risk that has come to pass in your project, so it makes sense to brush up on how to manage project risk. There’s a process for managing risk that can also help with managing issues.


Today we’re talking about seven issue management tips. Well, there’s so much to know about issue management. As a matter of fact, you may wanna reference one of our other whiteboard sessions on how to manage project risk, which also includes seven steps to avoid selective amnesia on your team and get stuff done.

But today, in this whiteboard session, I wanna give a brief overview reminder of what issue management is and even highlight what some issues are. But I wanna focus on seven tips that I found helpful to manage issues on my projects.

So first of all, let’s do a little highlight again about what issue management is. So first of all, that includes a plan that defines the activities and business rules that you’ll need to manage and control issues that may arise during the project. It also includes a process for managing issues. That includes identifying issues and also resolving those issues.

Well, what’s an issue? Well, an issue can be a major problem, it could be an opportunity, it could be a concern or some kind of situation that could ultimately impede progress or successful completion of the project and requires immediate attention. Ultimately, it could have a negative impact on your project.

So some examples may be problems with some of your staff. It could be that they need some additional training in order to get their work product done. It may also include some of your suppliers. Maybe they’re not available or responsive. It also could include something like a technical failure or maybe even some material shortages or delays. You know, sometimes if there are major disasters where things can’t be imported or exported, that may impact your project.

And then also, I love this one, where you may have a super successful promotion that you’re running. So say that you’re promoting a product and people are really receptive to it and people buy more than you have product on hand. Well, that can cause an issue on your project.

So here’s some seven tips. So number one is to provide a way for people to report issues on your project, and that includes a process and a tool. So there’s one app on my mobile phone that I love. It’s called Waze, W-A-Z-E. And what it allows is, when I’m driving, to report issues that I encounter along my path. It also allows other drivers to do that too. So I know what issues I may be running upon ahead and it allows me to reroute myself.

It also allows others on the same roadway to confirm if that same issue exists. If it doesn’t exist anymore, then it disappears. But it could ultimately become a bigger risk. So we wanna use that same principle on our projects when we’re approaching issues on our project.

We wanna also log everything. Sometimes people think that maybe small things are insignificant and sometimes those small things can really wreak havoc on our project. So we wanna make sure to log everything because we believe everything matters.

Then also, we wanna report the things promptly. So if there are people on the team who may be aware of issues on your project, but they don’t report them, they can soon and quickly become a risk on your project before they’re resolved. And again, we want to resolve those issues promptly before they turn into a risk.

We also want to be able to escalate appropriately. Meaning maybe not everything needs to be escalated, but maybe there are some issues that can’t be resolved without escalating maybe to an executive or even a stakeholder to help remove those roadblocks.

We also want to validate the status regularly. Again, if we think Waze, if the issue is no longer an issue, we wanna mark them closed. But if it escalates, we wanna be able to update that status.

And we want to notify everyone frequently because these issues can impact other people’s work. So these are some of the tips that I found helpful for managing issues on my project and I hope they help you too. But if you need a tool that can help you manage your issues on your project, then sign up for our software now at projectmanager.com.

(This post updated December 2019)

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