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Project Management - Is Escalation Good or Bad?

Posted by Sara Duong, Consultant on Jun 16, 2020 9:57:46 AM
Sara Duong, Consultant
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PE - BackgroundIn my experience, people generally hate to escalate. Many team members think escalation is snitching on a fellow team member or will reflect bad on their own performance.  To a project manager, escalation is just another method of communication; it's how we can foresee and manage situations, and all projects have "situations" that impact scope, budget, or time.

How to Encourage Escalation

So, at Concentrus, what sets us apart when managing a project is that we are not afraid to escalate and encourage our team members, internal or external, to escalate and provide feedback in a timely manner.  As Jesse Guzman wrote in his 3 Things Your Project Manager Should Focus On Instead of the Project Plan blog, we, as project managers, are not afraid to ask hard questions, are advocates of the client and project and strive to help the team keep an eye on the project's goal.  To do that, we have to encourage the team to communicate and communicate timely. 

Here are a few tips to encourage the team to feel safe speaking up when an issue arises:

  • Set ground rules at the beginning of the project during kickoff.
    • In our kickoff presentations, we have a slide that lists Critical Success Factors and typically balancing workload is a common factor. Here is where we pause and take the opportunity to discuss the importance of escalating and escalating early before there is problem. 
  • Message needs to come from or supported by senior management or project owners
    • Team members just need to be given permission to escalate. Hearing that senior stakeholders acknowledge there will be challenges and give permission for the team to communicate those challenges takes the stigma away from saying there is an issue or the workload is too much.
  • Help the team understand it's about achieving the goal together.
    • Helping the team focus on achieving the goal together makes the issues less about the individual.  Therefore, the challenges naturally get escalated because the team wants to win.
  • Project manager needs to create opportunities for open communication.
    • Besides setting ground rules at kickoff, escalations should be a part of the weekly project meetings. This creates a routine with team and triggers the team to anticipate issues. This reinforces achieving the project together as a team.

Impact of Escalating Early

Escalating early does not guarantee there will be no impacts to scope, budget, or time.  What it does give the project owners are options.  As I mentioned before, balancing project tasks and daily job demands can become overwhelming.  If a team member raises their hand earlier, the project owner or team can decide on what is priority at that moment and have success in both tasks.  If it was not escalated, then both project task and daily job tasks will suffer.

At Concentrus, we are goal oriented and timely escalations are key to achieving any project's goal. If you have any questions about the benefits of early escalations, feel free to contact us today.

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Tags: Project Management

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