Project Escalations: Running it up the Chain of Command

Running shoesA successful runner, like a successful team, needs strength, passion, knowledge, and the will to maintain and improve. A successful runner, again like a successful team, also needs the right equipment: good shoes for a solid foundation, a safe place to run or boundaries of responsibility, a support network for emergencies or an escalation plan for who crisis and rescue….

No person is 100% autonomous.  Take responsibility for tasks, but not at the detriment of yourself, the team, or your project. Communication, support, and escalations are necessary.

Preparation for the Unexpected
Like a good pair of running shoes you need a solid foundation for your team. Regular training and classes, knowledge-base tools like wikis or training manuals, guides to best practices, and even a place to communicate among co-workers will help build the perfect foundation.

Due Diligence and Communication
keep-calm-and-use-the-escalation-matrixNot every problem can be won before you start. Issues may arise along the way, and its up to you to follow guidelines. Not all issues need to be immediately escalated.

  • Communicate with your team, ask questions.
  • Search for answers.
  • Check for individuals on your team with assets that can help.

If you are unable to solve the issue with peers and your due diligence, it’s time to start the escalation process.

Knowing the Chain of Contact
In the early preparation of any project, thorough escalation expectations are set. Create or request a plan to attack possible scenarios (no matter how outlandish – even if you don’t think you will ever use them).

  • imagesPriority of escalation (Typically depends on type of escalation: is it dangerous? Immediate? Technical?)
  • Internal team contact protocol (managers, departments, etc)
  • Client daytime contact person(s), with contact details
  • Client night-time contact person(s), with contact details (may include personal contact info)
  • Holiday contacts, with contact details (may include home number)
  • Phone tree with everyone’s contact information (both team, and the client)
  • Back up contact information (#2 contact person, if #1 is unavailable)
  • Thorough documentation and examples of the issue(s)
  • A record of the event, and the subsequent escalation communication

Details and Resolution
Like a relay race, with your peers taking on different tasks – if an issue can be handled by the team, and you do not need to immediately run it up the chain of command, there is still a form of escalation necessary to future success. Just like a runner needs to cools down, your team needs to document everything accomplished:

  • What was the problem?
  • Could you reproduce the issue?
  • What could you fix and what couldn’t you fix?
  • And, most importantly, what did you and your team do to find the resolution?

I always tell my team to take notes as they tackle a problem.  All documentation should be sent to the manager for review, and retained for future assistance.

Whether you’re a runner, or a member of a team and part of a project, your preparation, strength, and foresight are vital!  And, as you tackle problems and escalation issues, know that you’re the key to any resolution! Good work.

Kevin Dudenbostel
Project Manager

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