6 steps to issue management

If you cannot achieve anything you had planned because of responding to the phone and email – day after day – you may need help getting on top of your issues.  These issues may be from customers, suppliers or from your own operations or facilities – the process for getting on top of your issues can be the same.

This guide introduces six steps which provide a path to getting on top of your issues.

Step 1 – Awareness
Recognising that you are being swamped is the key first step, getting ahead will require more the than solving of one problem after another. You will need to collect meaningful information rather than just data, identify the scale of the issues you face and understand the complexity of cause and effect.   Counting success and failure will help you keep score and understand where progress is being made, alongside developing a vision of what ‘good’ might look like.

Step 2 – Categorise
When issues get raised, the person reporting does not care whose problem it is – they just want it fixed!  Separating the issue reporting process from determining accountability can take some emotion out of the situation.

Getting to the actual cause of a problem in a repeatable way requires root cause analysis which can be enhanced by not reacting to failure as a unexpected panic!  Understanding the appropriate application of diagnostics and triage, supported by a structured approach to using location and asset information, can lead to better managed response times and minimised cost.

Step 3 – Organise
Expectation of an immediate fix to an issues can be tempting, but many factors can affect the actual outcome. Communicating expected response times can help moderate these expectations.  Planning for failure may seem odd in a landscape of planned preventative maintenance, but the significance of unexpected failures can then grow disproportionately – therefore scaling and prioritising resources, anticipating failure remains vital.

Putting in place continuous improvement processes and automating priotitisation and routing of your issue reporting can speed response and provide a consistent approach from which to build.

Step 4 – Implement
Putting in place an issue resolution system can be key but making it usable is paramount. Remember ‘easy is used, hard is not’, any system which requires complex training will be slow in uptake and slow to produce results.  Getting users to train other users will help speed adoption. Visibility is also a major attribute, leading to accountability and enhanced accuracy.

Providing benefits to all, such as positive communication, will encourage participation and feedback.  Nothing complex should be adopted in a single step, always pilot and refine to contain risk and maximise learning.

Step 5 – Feedback
Feedback is everything, without it a system based approach is blind. Learning from mistakes can be hard but very necessary, avoiding repetition is critical.   Keeping an historical perspective can be valuable but always be aware of changes on the ground and how they might affect issues being raised.

The urge to speed response times can be all consuming but ensuring issues are fixed and stay fixed is the ultimate goal.   Improving month after month is a key element to this guide and ‘working smarter not harder’ is an always valid approach.

Step 6 – Monitor
What is important today may not be important tomorrow or for next week, so always make sure you are monitoring what is important today alongside what is important for tomorrow. Keeping closed issues from re-appearing is where longer term progress can be made and monitoring for re-occurrence can be very useful.

Reporting should always be configured for minimal effort and analysis time focused on identifying any potential areas for improvement – not just those under performing.  Reports for management outside the system should not be taken as a substitute for reporting of key performance indicators within your system. Using modern business intelligence software can also make publishing external metrics automatic and universal – avoid the temptation to use special tools or software, this can lead to additional work in the future.

There are no easy win’s here but hard work and smart thinking can provide the backbone to success

These 6 steps are not always straightforward but they will be expanded in future articles with in-depth insights into each, illustrated with real-world learning / case studies to aid you in getting on top of your issues!