Resolving Open Issues

Open issue abatement is another task the PM will be involved in as the project rolls forward. If you set up a project intranet site, you can provide a place where open issues are posted for the PM to see and to respond to.

Open issue creation, notification, and response can be as formal as you deem the project to require. In a large project with many things firing off at once, it's very wise to set up a formal issue-notification process that does the following:

■ Requires people to follow a stated methodology for filing an issue

■ Supplies a reasonable time period for the issue to be resolved

■ Provides for categorization of issues (for example, A means a hot issue, B

warm, and C something that can wait)

■ Requires acknowledgment by the PM

■ Provides a method whereby the person(s) opening the issue can be given a response

On the other hand, a smaller project could easily get by with an e-mail system or some other informal open issue-notification methodology. In either case, there needs to be some way that the person opening the issue knows that you're aware of it and are working on it. You can't leave customers or stakeholders hanging with an open issue that you're not going to take the time to address.

Some issues are non-issues—they only represent grousing by someone who doesn't like the way a project is going. It's not wise to simply put the issue "on ignore" just because you recognize it as such. You need to use official PM language that says something like, "During our project requirements definition period, this issue was brought up, and we decided that it's not necessary to deal with it at this time." This or some other suitable response lets an issue opener know that you've at least acknowledged the issue, even though you're not going to deal with it.

Some issues are potential project killers, which is one reason that you may want to invent an issue importance scale by which people opening new issues can pinpoint what they think is the level of importance of a given issue. Crisis issues need to be immediately taken to the project sponsor and probably to an emergency stakeholder meeting.

The routine opening and closing of normal, workaday issues will require the person working on the area of concern to address them. It is up to the PM, however, to make sure that the team member handling the issue is aware of it and that she is addressing it in a timely way. You should decide how much personal time prioritization to allow a team member to utilize in such cases. For example, someone opens an issue and you pass it to Jenny, who ' s the team member working on the area in which the issue applies. Jenny doesn' t do anything with the issue and keeps plugging ahead on her tasks. You know this because you don't see any acknowledgment of or attention paid to the problem. You approach her and ask her about it. "Oh," she says, "it' s on my list, but I wanted to get this task knocked out first. I just can' t concentrate on two things like that at once!" It ' s up to the PM to set the priority at this point. If the issue' s hot, then Jenny needs to stop work on her current task and attend to the issue, resuming after she' s certain that the issue can be closed.

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