In the corporate world, the common tendency is to resolve the incident instead of identifying the issue. Sadly, this is where most teams go wrong. If you intend to ensure that the incident does not repeat, you need to resolve the underlying issue that is causing the incident. The issue management process has an important role for each individual involved in the situation.
However, before we get there, let’s understand what is issue management. It is all about identifying and resolving issues. As simple as it may sound, your ability to manage the issue is what defines project success. Not just your professional life, this ability to tackle issues comes in handy in your personal life as well.
What is a risk?
Before we discuss the definition of issues, let’s understand risks. A risk is an uncertain event that can have a positive or negative impact. Unlike issues, risks are identified at the start of the project itself. Since the outcome is based on assumptions, there is always a risk of things not turning out the way you intend them to. Another striking difference is that risks exist throughout the project.
Issues, on the other hand, are never identified at the start. It is only when you are working or tackling a specific scenario, will the issues arise. They may or may not last throughout the project. It is quite possible that you may come across a risk while evaluating the issues. If that does happen, you will need to tackle it separately. Ideally, it is the job of a team leader to identify all possible risks at the start of the project itself.
What is the issue?
Identifying the issue is the first and crucial step towards resolving it. But many people often end up confusing the definition of an issue with a risk. It is important to understand that the two are very different. However, there is a link that connects issues with risks. Something that looks like an issue today, may evolve into a risk later if left unattended. Simply put, if you choose to overlook the issue today, you may end up struggling with your risk management practices in the future!
Anything that prevents your progress (on the personal or professional front) is an issue waiting to be tackled. This is actually a risk that you have identified at the start. But the only difference is that this risk has materialized and now threatens to have a negative impact on the progress of the project.
You may think this is a very ambiguous definition that may lead to many issues being included in the list. Well, that is true. A long list of issues is always better because then you are aware of every possible hindrance that may arise. If you try to tone down the list at the very beginning, there is a high possibility that many of the issues may get ignored.
Now that we have a background on the subject, let us learn a few simple tips that can help you identify and resolve issues successfully.
9 Tips for Effective Issue Management
1. Maintain a detailed log
Issues arise all the time but you will need to prioritize and accordingly work on resolving them. The best way to do so is to maintain a detailed log where you encourage representatives from the team to register their issues.
When you are leading a team, there is a possibility that different people may face different issues. The simplest way to initiate the issue management process is to maintain a detailed log on the issues that the team is facing. For this technique to be effective, it is important to ensure that the issues log is maintained in an organized manner and on a regular basis.
Also, an important thing to remember is that as a manager you may not be able to involve yourself in every task. So make sure that you identify people at each level who can detail the issues that they face and accordingly populate the log with relevant information.
2. Research, survey, and benchmark
As we said earlier, maintaining a long list of issues is a healthy practice. But you should not go on a wild goose chase to start working on all issues that come your way. Do a little research and categorize the issues based on their priority.
You will come across many people who will happily confess to having an issue but ask them for details and the conversation draws a blank. Ever wondered why? Well, simply because people don’t bother to dig into their issues to understand the cause. The first step towards ensuring the permanent resolution of an issue is to identify the exact causes.
You may need to do some amount of research to understand the causes and even interact with people facing similar issues to narrow down the exact approach. This will help you prioritize issues and accordingly implement a plan that is best suited to the situation.
3. Ownership is important
When you are tackling multiple issues in a situation that involves others as well, you need to ensure that each member takes ownership of their part. Don’t try to be responsible for everyone and everything!
One person can’t be responsible for all issues simply because you can only be responsible for your actions and not for what others do. In most corporate examples, issues arise only when issue owners stop taking ownership of problems. Do not let this happen. Another challenge is that the people involved are not clear about the problems that they are facing.
Issues will not arrive with advanced notification. But everyone needs to be alert to identify them in the initial stages itself. This will help in ensuring that issues are resolved well within the deadlines and that the overall progress does not suffer.
4. Assign actions
When you identify issues, don’t just sit on them! Act quickly and assign actions to the concerned members in the team.
Identifying issues is important but it is only the first step. Once you are done with the identification, you will need to assign actions to concerned team members, against every issue. Needless to say with these actions, you will also assign timelines. These timelines will depend on the priority of the issue.
Remember at this stage it is crucial to define the roles and responsibilities of every team member involved in the process of resolving the issues. This will help in avoiding confusion and ensure that the issue is resolved within timelines.
5. Empower the teams to take bold decisions
If you expect the teams to resolve the issues, it is advisable to give them the right authority as well as tools.
The issue management process is rarely a one-man show. You need a team to help achieve the goal. So it is pivotal for the team to have the authority to act. For instance, if the project risk can be mitigated by crunching the timelines or avoiding a few steps, the team should be authorized to take the call. On such crucial occasions, if you run into a loop, it will only result in the issue becoming bigger.
6. Issue tracking will help
You are already maintaining an issues-log. After you have assigned actions, it is important to monitor issues and their progress. Simply put, you need to keep track of the issue and its resolution.
The purpose of maintaining a log is to ensure that everyone involved is aware of the current status of the issue. Is it nearing resolution? Is there a complication that requires attention from a senior authority? Are people doing their job like they are expected to?
These are just some of the questions that you need to ask the team to manage the issue. The focus should be on assessing the impact of the decisions taken to resolve the issue. Interestingly, this is a simple practice that can be followed in your personal life as well.
7. Listen to others
When it comes to managing issues, you can’t do what everyone says. That is practically impossible. But that does not mean you should resort to dictatorship.
An issue can be complex and often difficult to tackle if you try to manage everything individually. Therefore, it is important to interact and listen to what people have to say about the issue or proposed resolutions. In the corporate world, interacting with the teams is a crucial step when working on resolving issues.
Additionally, there are times when you are so blinded by the issue that you may miss out on seeing the other side of the story. This is when views from people around you will be helpful.
8. Deal with issues upfront
When an issue arises, trying to avoid it or postpone it for later, is always a bad idea. You are only giving it time to manifest into a bigger risk.
According to an interesting article by Bruce Condit, Vice President, Allegiance Capital, a crisis can strike anytime. Issues are also similar. Therefore just like crisis management, advance planning is the key to tackling issues as well.
Ideally, you should have a monitoring process that helps you identify issues when they are in the initial stages. Always remember, the smaller the issue, the easier it is to manage. Therefore, you should not hesitate to tackle the issue upfront.
9. Long term decisions can be tough
Issue management may require you to take tough decisions, some of which may not materialize into benefits, in the short-term. But that is okay.
If you are aiming to resolve the issue permanently, encourage your team to take decisions accordingly. There will be times when you will need to take a stand on long-term issues and take decisions that may not seem beneficial in the short term but will prove to be game-changers in the long run.
For instance, you may need to modify a process to include more steps. The people around you may be hesitant to accept the change but you must work harder to explain the benefits and convince them to get on-board.
On a parting note
The primary trait of a good issue management team is that they should resolve issues and move on. If you have a team that is not able to resolve issues and has only caused stagnation, it is a cause of concern. However, this does not mean that you need to monitor every action of the team. Even broad-level supervision at regular intervals will be extremely helpful. You can also regularly brief the team on the overall progress of the issue so that they feel more involved as well as motivated to resolve the issues.
This way you will be able to keep track of the issue and still not have to worry about the progress at each level. Another important take-away from this discussion is that you need to simplify the systems to facilitate efficient management of issues. After all, you do not want to be involved in managing the systems when you are already struggling to manage the issue.
A freelancer by profession, Kavita writes on a variety of topics, mental health being one of her favorites. Fond of traveling, socializing and meeting new people, most of her inspiration for writing comes from real-life scenarios as well as experiences. Her motto in life has always been to look for a reason to smile.