Risk Management

5 Times When You Should Escalate the Project Issue

Escalating problems is something no one wants to do. It sort of gives off the vibe of “the ship is sinking, send the rescue boats,” and most people would rather drown in the work/stress than ask for help. But not every problem can just be powered through, and extra help might necessary. In a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, Elizabeth Harrin explains when it’s the right time to escalate an issue:

  1. When you don’t know who will make the decision
  2. When you can’t break down the silos
  3. When you can’t control the extravagant changes
  4. When you can’t meet unrealistic expectations
  5. When you can’t manage the politics

Appreciate When to Escalate

Despite being one of the major players when it comes to your project, you often don’t have the final say in the matter. Sure, some things can be tweaked accordingly, but the person above you is the one calling the shots. When no one around you can tell you who’s got final word on the project, it’s time to escalate and figure out who that person is. That way you can have a dialogue about the project.

Communication plays a key role in the life of a project, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Work silos can stay up despite your best efforts to get the team talking to each other. If absolutely all else fails, it might be time to escalate and take the issue to the sponsor.

Harrin goes on to say that sometimes a stakeholder may try to pull rank and get extravagant changes to a project:

Changes are fine, as long as they are managed in a reasonable and controlled way. It’s the changes that come from people with greater authority and influence than you, who don’t seem to get that you can’t use nine women to deliver a baby in a month.

When you can’t ‘just do it’ within your existing scope, time, budget and quality targets then you need help to resolve that. Hopefully your manager or someone senior will be able to get through to your stakeholder that it isn’t possible and that the options are… whatever the options are.

Sometimes expectations are way too unrealistic, just like there can be extravagant changes. Someone tries to ask for way too much in too short a time or gives way too little cash to back up a gigantic project. Explain to the stakeholders why what they are offering to get the job done is just not enough, even after time/budget optimization on your part. Only escalate if you have given them a thorough education and they still are unyielding.

Lastly, there could be instances where the politics of a project are just too much to deal with. If people more powerful than you are interrupting progress, then it’s good to escalate to your sponsor to get things back on track.

You can view the original post here: http://www.esi-intl.co.uk/blogs/pmoperspectives/index.php/5-scenarios-where-you-should-escalate-an-issue/

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