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With the broad lexicon of management speak, speakers, even those who consider themselves completely fluent, can often get terms mixed up. Most commonly this is when two terms that are often used in the same context are used interchangeably and are presumed to mean approximately the same thing.

This is the case with risk management and issue management, which are commonly understood as being the same thing while they are actually very different. The fundamental difference is one of timing.

Risk management:

  • Risk is something which has the potential to happen or go wrong
  • It is necessary to identify potential risks before beginning a project
  • A risk management strategy details how events will be dealt with if they do occur
  • Risks are rated on their likelihood of occurring and their potential effects

Issue management

  • An issue is something which has happened and is currently affecting your project
  • It must be dealt with in the present moment
  • Issue management outlines how issues are dealt with, they may stem from the initial risk management strategy
  • Issues are dealt with according to their effects on the project and most efficient use of resources

 

As you can see, risk management and issue management are quite different, basically because one takes place before something happens and the other after it happens. That’s one problem sorted, but what if you’ve been tasked with managing an issue and need to sort it out. Well, if that is the case, here are some best practices to help you out.

  1. Keep track of everything

Managing an issue is a form of crisis and can be of varying degrees of seriousness. It can be easy therefore to throw best practice out the window and focus everything on solving the problem as quick as possible. You should always remember, however, to record as much as possible of the process. Not only will it make sure that you learn the lessons from what arises properly, it will also help the organization to form better policies and structures in the future.

  1. Maintain close contact

With all team members who are involved in the solving of an issue, keeping in good contact is essential. Specific team members will know their own role inside-out (or should at least) and so having their knowledge and feedback on an issue will be vital for understanding what needs to be done and how much progress is being made towards a solution.

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  1. Don’t be afraid to escalate

Every project manager would like to believe that they can handle any issue that may arise within their own team, that’s not always possible. In fact, sometimes, not taking the issue to superiors or relevant stakeholders in time can turn a minor issue into a major catastrophe. As a PM, your team relies on you to make the best decisions for project success, so don’t let pride or fear get in the way of escalating a problem to get the help you need.

  1. Get to the root of the issue

If there seems to be an underlying theme to the issues that are occurring, don’t be afraid to adjust the risk management plan and investigate if there may be a common cause. While risk management before a project begins is essentially “blind”, issue management can be turned into a positive by using new information to inform of future risk mid-project. By getting to the root of an issue, deeper structural issues may be uncovered which can prevent bigger problems occurring in the future.