Project Management Looks Past the Tip of the Iceberg

Dealing with Business Issues the Project Management Way

Most business managers are caught up with daily operational concerns; hence, leaving them with very little time to attend to resolving noncrisis issues. They either pass on the responsibility to a subordinate, or make promises of looking into the matter without any real intention of doing so. For these managers, minor project management problems may be regarded as something that comes with the business and may not be worth the attention they require.

However, lack of action to resolve and prevent the recurrence of a particular issue can lead to greater problems. In such cases, these can get blown out of proportion and create adverse impacts that will require legal defense, lead to financial losses or fines, and suspension of a license to operate. In project management, issues, regardless of how insignificant they may seem at the moment, require attention because these are real problems.

Sample Case Problem that Required Issue Management

For all intents and purposes, issue management is a regulation concerned with addressing and resolving the root causes of inherent and perceived risks that can lead to a business crisis. Others contend that letting small issues “die a natural death” has been proven to be effective. This position, however, is not entirely true. Issues are, in fact, seeds that spawn greater problems and may take on a different form of trouble for a company.

Let’s use as an example, the case of an employee who had been griping about the shabby treatment he was getting from his co-workers. Actually, it was a case of being ignored during group discussions because of his nit-picking attitude. The employee’s supervisor and manager decided to ignore his complaints as well since they were of the opinion that doing so will increase his discordant behavior.

Yet, the problem only worsened when he didn’t get a raise due to poor performance evaluation. The problem escalated, and the employee was terminated because of the tension he was creating in the work place. However, this did not solve the issue at all because he filed a case of wrongful termination against the company.

Accordingly, his supervisor and his manager never acted on his complaints, but instead accused him of poor performance without any proof or record of his unsatisfactory work. He was deprived of his yearly raise while his co-workers were being motivated with bonuses, incentives, and promotions. He claimed that the real reason he was terminated was because he was relentlessly asking for a raise. The lack of action on the part of the employer prior to his termination cost the company more than $500,000 as out of court settlement.

In project management, not finding the time to attend to issues is not an excuse. An issue project management system is put in place to make it possible for the project manager to find time to resolve it, or to assign a team member who is best equipped to handle the matter.

The Issue Management Process

In accepting the fact that problems always arise when running a business, entrepreneurs and CEOs should see to it that every department maintains an issue management system. As a dynamic entity, different types of personalities revolve around it; hence, some of these individuals may meet and clash at some point in time. There are also the customers, whose best interest and satisfaction should come first and foremost, in which some may tend to go overboard, overreact, or even exploit an issue for unscrupulous purposes.

Think of other stakeholders, who, in some way or another, have vested interests in the company or obligations to fulfill to ensure that business operations will continue to run smoothly. Consider the machineries and equipment being utilized, the technological systems that provide technical support, and the inventories susceptible to damages, theft, shortages, and obsolescence. These are only some of the common sources of business issues that can likely transpire in multiples, in a single, or in different occasions.

The absence of a system and processes to follow, paves the way for some breakdown, conflict, complaint, breach, and similar concerns to reach an unmanageable level. In dealing with business issues, the project management way considers the following measures:

a.) The Issue Control Log – This represents documentation of all issues encountered and can be manually maintained by supervisors in every department. All entries shall be taken-up and discussed with the department manager so that the proper steps can be taken in addressing the issues. If it is deemed necessary, proper consultations with the Human Resource Department or the company’s Legal Counsel should be made. This is to ensure that the courses of action being taken are within the bounds of the company’s policies and federal regulations. Henceforth, the issue control log should contain the following information:

    • The Type of Issue – (1) Technical (2) Resource {people, machinery, equipment, and inventory} (3) Change Management {organizational, customers, environmental} (4) Business Procedures (5) Third Party {government regulators, resellers, contractors, suppliers, creditors).
    • Issue Discoverer or Identifier
    • Date and Time the Issue was Identified
    • Descriptions – Summary of the problem that transpired, the work process affected, the potential impact on the business, the parties involved, remarks whether the issue was resolved, and the date and time it was provided with solutions.
    • Priority – High (Has the potential to disrupt business operations.) Medium (Has a significant impact, but will not impede operations.) Low (Minor problem that will not have a significant impact if a resolution cannot be provided immediately.)
    • Resolution Owner – The person designated to act on the issue,and likewise responsible for tracking the status, by indicating if it is: Resolved, Open, Under Investigations, Under Implementation or Escalated (To a higher management level or to the disciplinary committee.)
    • Timeframe and Target Date of ResolutionB. The Issue Tracking Software – Entrepreneurs and CEOs should likewise consider the situations of their managers and supervisors, who are busy with their daily functions and duties. Hence, they tend to have a limited time span to devote in manually recording, resolving, and tracking all issues with consistent expediency. Installing an issue tracking software poses as the best solution, since its features can provide the following benefits:a) A customizable issue log, which includes the uploading of images; this will minimize the need to provide full descriptions or can make up for the limited space on which to type in the description. Some software is also furnished with translation capabilities to ensure proper communication, particularly with non-English speaking customers.

b.) A single-platform software that allows the integration of a Help Desk. Hence, customer complaints can easily reach the department concerned.

c.) An email messaging medium, in which messages can be sent to and from this platform. This allows accessible communication between supervisors and managers, or between the resolution owner and the customer, the employee/s, or a third party.

d.) Allows collaboration between the persons in-charge by way of a private discussion thread, in which comments, deliberations, updates, inputs, and recommendations can be recorded as data. This can be viewed only by those who have proper authorizations.

e) The features include alert notifications for long-outstanding issues, or for any additional comments and changes of status that were made in the issue control log.

f) The platform is versatile enough to be used in monitoring the testing of software products, and for tracking bugs and fixes.

Consider the project management discipline of resolving issues at the earliest stages and within a specific time frame. Regardless of the method used, whether manually or via issue management software, the crux of the matter is about having a system in place that can save the company from incurring losses caused by problems that could have been prevented.