Have you recently undergone a project review and received a Corrective Action Request (CAR) or a Discrepancy Report (DR)?
If so, your next step is to quickly respond to them in the most appropriate way, to let the client know you are taking the findings seriously and have a plan to address them so those issues are not likely to happen again.
There are 5 major steps to respond to corrective action:
- Understand the situation
- Complete the analysis
- Create a corrective action plan
- Carry out the work
- Close the CAR.
This is a very high level guide to responding to a corrective action. In practice, your process is likely to be more involved and require input from a number of different specialist areas, as well as close coordination with the agency that issued the request in the first place.
We support organizations to respond to corrective actions in a structured way so that you can quickly get back to the priority work of delivering your project and serving your client. If you need any help with putting together a response, then please reach out to us because we can definitely save you time, especially if there are a number of findings from your review! For example, we can advise on creating a single CAR for multiple findings and ensuring that your analysis is broad enough to cover all relevant data and process points, not just the limited sample looked at during the review.
Corrective action response guide
Let’s dive into those five steps to give you a brief overview of the actions required.
Step 1: Understand the situation
You can’t respond to something if you don’t know what is being asked of you. The first thing to do is to make sure that you (and any sub-contractors or clients) understand the content of the CAR so you know what situation is being referred to.
The common understanding is important because you might spend time implementing actions that are irrelevant! If it is at all unclear, sit down with everyone involved: the contractor, sub-contractor, client and review team (not necessarily all at the same time) and discuss the findings until you are clear about what it is that you are being asked to resolve.
Step 2: Complete the analysis
Next, you should find out why the situation that led to the CAR happened in the first place. There could be one very clear reason, or a number of reasons that together created a problem.
Root cause analysis is a useful tool to use here: dig down into all the contributing factors so you get a complete picture about how your process works and why it wasn’t quite up to scratch on this occasion. There are plenty of tools to help like those involved in Lean process improvement or Six Sigma methodologies, and if your organization has people trained in those approaches, business analysts or specialist IT resource that is used to carrying out root cause analysis, then those individuals can help you dig into the causes.
Step 3: Create a corrective action plan
This is where most of the work happens: you have to develop a Corrective Action Plan.
Now you know what the cause of the problem was, it’s time to work out how to address it.
Part of creating the CAP is to make sure the activities required to deliver it are integrated within your Integrated Master Schedule. In other words, any tasks you need to do to address the CAR should be reflected in your overall project schedule so the effort involved in doing so can be reflected in the project performance reporting.
You’ll also want to spend time identifying how you will evidence that the plan has been successful. Document these measures so you can demonstrate the effectiveness of your actions.
Step 4: Carry out the work
Unsurprisingly, the next step is to complete the tasks in the Corrective Action Plan. Do the work, tracking, monitoring and controlling it as you would any other project activities, and make sure the client is kept informed at every step.
If you work with sub-contractors, help them meet the requirements of the CAP by supporting them where necessary to complete their tasks.
This part sounds easy, but it can be the most challenging. When you are coming up with the plan, make sure that you can actually deliver it within a reasonable time period and budget. Otherwise, you might be stuck with agreed actions that you can’t realistically get done in a timely way.
Step 5: Close the CAR
Finally, once you’ve done the work to address the improvements required, you can close down this activity. Before you do that, make sure the client is happy that you have adequately addressed the points raised in the CAR.
It’s generally the client that decides if the CAR can be closed, when they are convinced that you have taken the necessary steps to avoid the situation happening again.
Corrective action response examples
Some examples of corrective action responses include:
- Quick fixes: correcting typographical issues in reports or formula errors
- Re-running data where the data run caused an issue
- Improvements or changes to processes
- Increased or additional staff training
- Increased management support or a different management approach for delivery
- System integrations or data translation between systems
- Improved team communication.
Obviously, the exact correct response actions will depend on the findings from the review and what you think is the best approach to deal with resolving them.
Ask your PMO or earned value management specialist for some corrective action report examples if you have to write one.
Create a standard approach
Ideally, you should have a standard approach to dealing with a CAR because you are likely to get a few of them in your time delivering projects! They are not a reflection on your professionalism or customer service, so try to consider them as part of the general governance approach to managing the work and a way of ensuring compliance is met at the highest standards.
Once you’ve got a standard approach, your time to respond to each CAR will fall dramatically because you will be able to draw on a tried-and-tested way of dealing with each CAR efficiently.