A continuing post in the Project 911 series…

Your project is going sideways, it’s in critical condition and you can’t figure out why.  Scope has been nailed down, you have the right people, communication is great, and you have a detailed plan.  What’s next?

Consider exploring the issues and risks.  As Project Manager’s, we spend so much time focusing on requirements and schedules that we can lose the rigor of managing issues and risks.  What are they and how do they differ?

Simply put, an issue is a problem – it has a solution.  We need to identify the issue, explore possible solutions, select a course of action, document and track it.  We practice issue management throughout the life of the project.

Risks are a bit different since they are possible eventualities.  The risk may or may not happen.  We need to identify the risk, develop possible scenarios, determine how we’ll know if it happens as well as the approach for mitigation.  From there, we monitor activities to watch for possible signs of the risk taking hold.  This activity is conducted early in the project and if done right, periodically through the life-cycle of the project.

When your project is in trouble, assess how well you as a Project Manager have managed both issues and risks.  Chances are you’ll find the likely culprit and be able to get back on track.