Issue Management: the process explained

Issue Management - Toolshero

Issue management: This article explains issue management in a practical way. It starts off with a general definition and meaning of issue management and why it is important in project management. This is followed by a step-by-step plan for risk management and an explanation of how the issue management process can be applied in practice. Enjoy reading!

What is issue management?

Problems or challenges arise regularly in almost every project. Risks can also become a problem. Risks are potential problems in the future that can be predicted.

Issue management definition

Issue management is the process by which organizations manage problems, or issues. That is, how they identify the issues and respond appropriately.

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Issue management meaning and examples

Issues are mainly unexpected roadblocks and obstacles that can arise at any time. An example of this is a project manager who expects that he will need extra staff to prevent a jam in the project, but cannot predict that he will be sick at home.

Other examples are:

  • Poor quality products such as malfunctioning software
  • Team members who lack skills and knowledge
  • Projects or activities for which there is no budget
  • Disturbed communication such as language barriers or lack of communication in the group
  • Delivery problems

There are different ways and techniques to deal with issues and risks. Both issues and risks occur in projects, so it is important to have a procedure in place that anticipates both risks and problems. We call this issue management.

This process also helps determine who will solve the issue and when. The issues are also kept in a database so that future projects can learn from the way in which problems are dealt with.

Preventing issues is also part of issue management. And this starts before the project even begins. It includes making a clear assessment of the issues that may arise and how they could be resolved. Thus, before establishing a specific issue management process, a risk management plan is established. This nips some of the issues in the bud.

Issue Management and risk management, the process

Risk management is a very important discipline in business and beyond. Risks are assessed to predict a potential problem in the future. It’s all about proactivity. In other words: actively trying to identify and mitigate the potential risks. Once a project team knows what risks they may face in the process, it becomes easier to quell predictable issues and keep the project running smoothly.

The following five steps are essential to address risks in a timely manner.

Step 1. Identify the risk

First of all, it must be clear which risk poses a threat to the progress of a project or process. Therefore, gather the team and, if possible, specialists from outside. For example, use brainstorming techniques to find out which problems and pitfalls may arise. You can use post-its or a mind map for this. Next, create a project risk management log that tracks all risks.

Step 2. Analyze the risk

Not all risks are the same. For example, sometimes it is not necessary to act on a risk because the chance of it occurring is simply too small, or because the consequences will simply not stand in the way of the progress of the project.

Use techniques such as the decision tree or the decision matrix to properly indicate the consequences of each risk. Consider all possible consequences of a risk, from financial consequences to wasted time and other costs.

Step 3. Prioritize

The next step in the risk management and issue management process is prioritization. Several risks have been identified that need to be acted upon. As stated earlier, not all risks can be addressed without jeopardizing the progress of the project plan. By prioritizing risks, the list can be ranked by likelihood and impact, as explained in the risk management article.

Step 4. Take action

During this step, the team or project manager takes action to address the risks. Create a treatment plan for the highest priority risks. This could be, for example, the risk with the greatest negative impact or the highest probability, but other risks from the risk matrix can also be mitigated first.

Step 5. Manage the risks

It is important that the team and manager regularly go back to the risk log throughout the project to determine how well or poorly the risks are being managed. Adjust the approach if necessary.

Further steps in the issue management process

By going through the risk management process explained above, a first project obstacle has been resolved. Identifying risks and anticipating them is an important part of issue management. What about issues that still arise? These acute issues appear to arise suddenly and cannot be predicted.

Nevertheless, there is a fast and efficient way to solve these issues as they arise. This is known as the issue management process. The process involves three steps:

  1. Identifying and registering issues
  2. Determining impact and setting priorities
  3. Drawing up a plan to solve the issues

As you can see, this process is very similar to the risk management process discussed above.

Registering issues is important to be able to solve them proactively. Behind every issue management process is an issue log in which the issues are recorded. An issue log acts as a central database for stakeholders to report problems in projects as they arise. They can also add solutions so that others can consult this log in the future and use the resolved issues as an example.

Using a log ensures that:

  • Team members have a safe way to share project concerns and issues
  • Team members can be assigned to issues to address the issues and track progress
  • The team has a central place where issues are identified

There is no fixed form or format for a logbook. What this looks like depends on the needs and wishes of the team working with it.

Be sure to include at least the following information in the log:

  • Type of issue (technical, malfunction, etc.)
  • Name of reporter
  • Time and date of determination
  • Description of the issue and consequences
  • What priority does the issue have?
  • Name of person responsible for this part of the project
  • Deadline for a solution
  • Status

After managing the issue, leave room to report how the issue has been solved. So keep track of every step. This later helps the team identify patterns in how the issue was solved.

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Now it’s your turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation about issue management? Is there effective issue management in your work environment? How do you identify and resolve issues? What other ways or methods can you add to this article when it comes to issue management? Do you think that in many organizations more attention should be paid to this discipline?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Heath, R. L. (2018). Issues management. The international encyclopedia of strategic communication, 1-15.
  2. Jaques, T. (2010). Embedding issue management as a strategic element of crisis prevention. Disaster prevention and management: an international journal.
  3. Jaques, T. (2007). Issue management and crisis management: An integrated, non-linear, relational construct. Public relations review, 33(2), 147-157.
  4. Ansoff, H. I. (1980). Strategic issue management. Strategic management journal, 1(2), 131-148.

How to cite this article:
Janse, B. (2022). Issue Management. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Original publication date: 12/23/2022 | Last update: 05/15/2023

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


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