Why do we escalate problems?

This is an answer to a question submitted to the "Ask me anything (AMA)" program. This AMA channel is designed to support you get clarity to business/tech questions you may have. Periodically, I select a particular response that we feel can benefit the broader community.

Escalating challenges involves raising awareness of the context of a situation so that people with more knowledge, resources or decision-making remit can take action to resolve a challenging problem.

There are various situations you may want to escalate problems:

Proper governance of a risk-management process lets you help leadership be aware of issues and risks that can impact the overall success of a piece of work. There are various factors that you may want to escalate across:

  • Scope clarity or introductions of new unplanned work
  • Unclarity, unknowns and detected assumptions that may put the project at risk
  • Budget - are you on track, behind, and by what %. E.g. we are 40% through the budget but only delivered 20% of the work.
  • Legal - are there any legal constraints or situations that may cause us to run into legal issues with a partner or customer. Using an example:
  • You may have a piece of work that was agreed to be implemented, but you found it cannot be done without massively breaking the budget limit or delivering within the timeframes agreed.
  • You experienced an unintended data leak.
  • There is a condition of work that would see us break an agreement with a partner/customer.
  • Technical - Are there any technical issues we are meeting/being limited to. Maybe some better tools or approaches may need to be considered to achieve success.
  • Team stability & engagement - are we all humming as a team, or is there a particular conflict or resource loss that needs to be addressed?
  • Customer responsiveness to areas that need their input - is customer responsive and delivering to obligations to enable us to deliver the work required.
  • Customer satisfaction - we deliver the work, but the customer is unhappy with the overall progress/or has different expectations.

Issues may be escalated when:

  • There is an issue in the project not meeting scope, the progress of technical deliver (as above).
  • There is an issue that is causing team members to work significantly beyond what was expected (risking burnout and loss of personnel).
  • You have already tried to manage or fix an issue but were unsuccessful.
  • You have exhausted all reasonable options within your remit to address a problem (person, technical, budget, environment etc.).
team work

The benefits of escalating are:

  • Raising awareness of the situation to management.
  • Enabling collaboration and cross-functional engagement to find a resolution.
  • You may be allocated additional resources to address the issue.
  • Highlighting areas where the business can do better and improve.
  • Helps team stay the course and deliver the required work on time and within the scheduled timeframe and expectations.
  • Improves relationships as it eliminates surprises.

Let us know what you think!. We believe in productive discourse and welcome opportunities to refine our understanding through discussion. Comment in the comments area below or reach out on hi@andremuscat.com


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