Escalation strategies in leadership management

What is escalation and why is it needed in the leadership management process? This is the process whereby a project manager can flag issues or potential roadblocks that relate to the project and which can jeopardize its delivery to higher level such as senior stakeholders / sponsors of a project in order to highlight it and receive assistance in resolving the issue. This process should be seen as more of a ‘silver bullet’ event as opposed to a regular feature in the project process as the project manager is effectively highlighting major issues related to an individual or organisational dysfunctions when they use the escalation process. For most issues that arise a project manager will not use this process but will use their own influence and authority or those within the project team to resolve, overcome or workaround the issue.

How do you deal with escalations effectively?

  1. Prepare a clear, understandable, simple and fair escalation process. Make sure how you escalate involves a straightforward way to engage with the level in the organisation that can help you effectively and agree the types of issues that can e escalated. Above all, ensure that you use the process sparingly!
  2. Have a way to quantify the risk and understand the best time to escalate it. Have an agreed way of evaluating a risk to say it warrants escalation and ensure you don’t do so too early or more importantly too late. Remember the adage, bad news doesn’t get better with time!
  3. The best way is to call a meeting and provide it in person, if that is not possible then via a call or online meeting – only use email as a communication channel as a final resort as email is the slowest delivery method and can be missed or worse, ignored.
  4. Deliver the information in a cool manner – keep it professional, never personal.
  5. Give the facts as you see them. What the underlying task was, what the issue is, what wasn’t done and what you tried to do to keep completion on track.
  6. Don’t play the blame game but act as a solution provider and offer up how you see it being resolved. Remember – you may need the person, department or team that is being escalated later in the project.
  7. Next steps – Now that the trigger has been pulled you will need to manage the situation with the resolution in mind and regularly inform the escalation committee or individual of progress or completion.

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