Project Issue Management – A Risk Based Collaborative Approach


By Alex Gertsen

TranSigma Partners 

Connecticut, USA

Risks First 

Any seasoned IT project manager knows what it’s like to present a list of project issues to a group of anxious stakeholders. As unnerving as this exercise can be, the best PMs approach it as an opportunity to steer the project back on track and to methodically explore what went wrong. Indeed, the best project managers never wait to implement an issue management strategy.

We begin by granting that project issues always materialize from risks. Risks, whether known or not, exist until either handled (avoided, shared, reduced, accepted) or materialized. Once materialized, risks spawn active issues that must be managed and dealt with. Issues are more acute than risks and can significantly inflate project costs. This paper argues that an ongoing collaborative approach to risk management decreases project-issue manifestation and impact.

Managing Risk – A Collaborative Approach 

In order to minimize issues on projects, it is important to understand and manage risk. Because project risks are often complex and intertwined, a successful risk management approach requires the involvement of the entire project team and beyond. Modern project managers and their teams do not work in project silos. They are part of project portfolios and work streams, and these are part of larger organizations with overarching missions, goals, and objectives. Innovative and creative approaches to handling project risk require input from many sources within and outside of individual project teams. Good project leaders use these sources and capture the outcomes in a repository for use, study, and exploration.

We propose that an effective approach to managing and mitigating project risk is enabled thru regularly scheduled “Risk Roundtables” held at the portfolio and work-stream levels. During these sessions, project managers outline their top project risks along with any resulting issues. Roundtable discussions are focused on suggestions and recommendations for risk mitigation. This concept was implemented at a global life sciences company with oversight from the IT Project Management Office and results were as follows:


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About the Author

flag-usapmwj18-Jan2014-gertsen-PHOTOAlex Gertsen

TranSigma Partners

Alex Gertsen serves as Senior Practice Manager at TranSigma Partners, a Connecticut headquartered management consulting firm in the United States. He has led successful system implementation and PMO improvement projects in global healthcare and financial services institutions. Alex has extensive experience with international technology projects requiring funding and cooperation from global sources.  Alex earned his Bachelors of Science in Information Systems and Masters of Science in Engineering Management from Drexel University. He is PMP and Six Sigma Black Belt Certified. Alex can be contacted at [email protected] and at http://www.linkedin.com/in/alexgertsen.