Issue Management Best Practice Indicators including Reference Points


In less than three decades, Issue Management has become established as a distinct business discipline, with proven capacity to add strategic value to organizations. During that time practitioners and academics around the world have explored ways to optimize the new discipline and to stretch the boundaries of where its strengths can best contribute to corporate and societal advancement.

The nine Best Practice Indicators formulated by the Issue Management Council capture leading edge performance by the best in class throughout the world. An organization would not necessarily require all the standards in place to be best in class and, as needs and emphases vary greatly between different fields of enterprise, the standards carry no weighting.

Recognizing that different organizations may interpret achievement of each Best Practice Indicator in different ways, Reference Points have been developed for each Indicator. In the same way that the Indicators are not standards but are intended as guidance to what can be achieved by organizations operating at Best Practice, so too the Reference Points are not intended as audit checks or compulsory requirements. The Reference Points are offered as examples of what procedures or documentation an organization might establish to demonstrate achievement of a particular Best Practice Indicator.

The standards crystallize the wisdom and experience of practitioners and academics and set out the goals for those who aspire to perform and contribute to Issue Management at the highest level.



1. There is an established mechanism to identify current and future issues through environmental scanning/issue analysis.

Reference Points

  • Designated individuals formally monitor key sources such as news media, journals, research, websites, external conferences and peer industry activities
  • Organization actively participates in trade associations including monitoring and lobbying of legislation, new regulations and relevant litigation at local, national and international levels
  • Phone or email hotlines allow employees to elevate issues with management (anonymity available)
  • Community Advisory Panels or third party focus groups are actively promoted
  • An established process is in place to receive, evaluate and prioritize scanning inputs from both internal and external sources

2. The organization has adopted a formal process to assign and manage issues.

Reference Points

  • Established policies or procedures describe the Issue Management process including roles and responsibilities and documentation
  • Formal prioritization tools optimize Issue assignment e.g. impact matrix, risk evaluation and prioritization analysis
  • Issue strategy development tools or worksheets are consistently used
  • Issue status files and position statements are regularly updated
  • Information is maintained to facilitate future access to last status and lessons learned

3. Responsibility for stewardship of the issue management process is clearly assigned and mechanisms are in place to build organizational expertise in the discipline.

Reference Points

  • Job descriptions show clear responsibility for the Issue Management process
  • An Issue Management Center of Expertise provides practical resources to improve Issue Management awareness and effectiveness at all levels of the organization
  • The Issue Management Process Steward formally monitors Issue teams to eliminate redundancy, promote consistency of policy and messages and optimize resource deployment
  • Formal training is available for Issue Management Teams to properly implement the process
  • Operational Issue Management processes are regularly reviewed and benchmarked


4. “Ownership” of each major issue is clearly assigned at an operational level with accountability and results linked to performance reviews.

Reference Points

  • The Issue owner is clearly identified on all documentation and communication
  • Action plans and time-lines set out group and individual operational activity
  • Issue progress is assessed in evaluation against formalized operational or tactical goals
  • Personal and team issue achievements relate directly to salary and bonus assessment
  • Management authorize resources such as task teams to address particular issues

5. Progress against key issues is formally reviewed with organizational “owners” on a regular basis and the status of each is monitored at the highest management level.

Reference Points

  • Issue teams meet and report on a regular basis
  • Recognized processes exist to formally evaluate progress against strategic objectives
  • CEO is regularly briefed on key issues including status and plans (e.g. weekly or fortnightly)
  • Established processes record and implement management feedback
  • Management formally review Issue Position statements and actively participate in regular status updates (e.g. quarterly)

6. The Executive Committee or Board of Directors has fiduciary oversight of issue management; has mechanisms in place to report progress to Directors and/or external stakeholders; and has authority to intervene in the event of non-compliance or misalignment.

Reference Points

  • Board level management have direct issue involvement (e.g. public policy or environmental affairs committee or nominated Director to lead or maintain the Issue process and related policy)
  • Issue reports are available to external stakeholders (e.g. Annual report, Corporate Social Responsibility report)
  • Organization external web-site provides issue updates and mechanism for stakeholder feedback
  • Established procedures exist for the Board to intervene where necessary and to penalize non-compliance
  • Board utilizes an executive level external Issue or Stakeholder Advisory Board


7. Formal channels exist for managers at all levels to identify and elevate potential issues for possible integration into broader strategic planning, including external stakeholder management.

Reference Points

  • Strategy planning specifically reviews current and future issues and their financial impact throughout the business life cycle
  • External stakeholder advocates formally report findings and feedback
  • Business or new product reviews identify and address potential issues
  • Issue scanners are formally identified and trained
  • Managers actively encourage outside-in perspectives and employee participation

8. Management of current and future issues is well embedded within the strategic planning and implementation processes of organizational clients or owners.

Reference Points

  • Training programs promote Issue Management as a Standard Operating Procedure
  • Leadership of the business or operating unit which owns the issue receive regular updates
  • Issue owners are members of core management
  • Issue Management plans are fully aligned with Business Plans to ensure optimum synergy and minimize duplication or internal conflict
  • CEO briefing book integrates issues into Annual General Meeting, analysts briefings and other shareholder communication

9. Issue Management is recognized and organizationally positioned as a core management function which is not confined to a single function or department.

Reference Points

  • Issue Management Team leadership and membership reflects diversity of function or department
  • Issue Management is recognized in job descriptions across all key functions and departments
  • Individual Issue managers and process owners participate in key management groups
  • Issue champions are appointed from senior management of impacted departments
  • Issue process training is scheduled and monitored for all levels of participation including employee orientation