On today’s PMChat, we spoke about how to manage Project Issues, both expected and unexpected. How do we respond when Project problems suddenly become real?
To start with, we spoke about the moment when an Issue arises and we need to keep a clear head and a strong focus. What do we do first?
As always, I’ve added my responses in italics – please feel free to add your thoughts on Twitter, using the #PMChat hashtag.
My immediate steps are to triage the issue and keep a clear head.
- Understand the source event
- Understand how it affects the project – schedule, budget, risk, quality
- Understand the 3 things that I need to do to respond
My immediate priority is always to put some structure around the Issue – to remove the background noise and focus on creating order from amidst chaos. As PMs, people look to us to give clear, considered advice from a position of clarity.
So you are clearing your head. You have a short term objective and a couple of immediate steps in mind. Let’s think about the next step – who do you tell and what do you tell them?
This is tricky. My approach is to balance my Sponsor and impacted people:
- Heads-up to the Sponsor/Project Board around key points and next steps
- Briefing to impacted people, focusing on how they are affected and next steps
- Give all parties progress updates
I share different messages, each focusing on the impacts and priorities of each audience and all grounded in the same information.
- What has happened
- How it impacts the audience
- Our next 3 steps
- When we will respond by
- When I will provide an update
When we manage an Issue, we need to make sure that we have the right information. Let’s think about the sort of things we need to know to respond to an issue.
I want to know the same foundation things, regardless of the Issue size/complexity.
- What has happened
- What are the Project impacts (schedule, cost, risk, quality)
- Who is impacted
- Drop-dead dates for mitigation
- Specific user impacts
Once I have the Issue on my radar, I track it on a regular basis to make sure that my action plan is progressing and the impacts are as expected. I also provide audiences with periodic updates, so they have confidence that we have it under control.
In our final question, we thought about whether we approach Issues differently depending on whether they are expected or unexpected. I’m curious to know – does the way we respond to Issues change if they are planned vs. unexpected?
Q7. Does the way you approach an Issue change if it arises from a Risk vs the left-field hospital pass? Do you have a different way of responding, or do you stick to the same foundation steps? What works for you?
My fundamental appraoch doesn’t change – triage the issue as quickly as possible – understand the impacts, inform the right people and lock in your next steps. These are the constant steps that I always follow.
As always, you can join the conversation on Twitter every week at 1200 AEST, 1400 NZST, 1900 PT and 2200 ET, using the #PMChat hashtag.