Issues in a project are inevitable, unfortunately they are also reactive in nature, so the key is to recognise them and ensure adequate planning, governance and controls tools have been put in place to manage them without impacting schedule and budget.
An issue is typically something on your project deliverables that is blocked from meeting expected outcome or quality, a concern or an unanswered question. An issue can be raised by anyone in the project, steering board or customer. Without action it is anticipated that scope, quality, schedule or budget will be impacted and there is nothing in plan to address. It is acceptable to identify the issue without knowing the root cause, as this can often go undetected until properly investigated and appropriate changes are made.
If an issue is something that occurs which has been unplanned for, therefore reactive in nature, planning on the face of it sounds contradictory! However, with a good project risk assessment performed it is possible that either there is something in-plan should the risk materialise to an issue, or sufficient contingency to mitigate the issue if necessary.
Put in place a process for managing issues throughout their lifecycle and ensure reporting has been put in place. Your governance should include the ability for an issue to move through the project team allowing for elevation up to steering board when appropriate. Assess the impact of the issue so a decision maker and elevation level can be determined appropriately. Empower your team to identify issues and log them down. Instil a mantra of “Early Reds are a good thing” if necessary, especially where the root cause of the issue is outside the projects authority of control. Include regular review sessions throughout the project to provide guidance, ensure traction and spot reds, early. When an issue is likely (or has) impacted the project schedule and / or budget, elevate it up to your steering board with options for them to choose to limit the impact on the benefits case.
Having an issue log in place is paramount. Anyone on your project must be able to access the log, raise new issues as they occur and work from them. If an issue has not been logged when it is identified then there is a very high probability that it will be forgotten about and not resolved. Your log must be able to report slippage, have Red Amber Green (RAG) indicators, support the elevation process as well as support the issue through your governance process.
For more information see our Project Management Guide.