Decision — 2nd “D” for Leading Project Escalations

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, then it must be a duck” — Italian proverb

Many project managers don’t like to escalate because they have trouble answering two questions:

  • Even if we know of a problem, is it worthy of escalation?
  • Why do you feel like you should fix it yourself?

The answer to the first question is pretty simple — if you can’t fix it within the project, it is by definition an escalation.  We’ll get into the difference between formal customer escalation vs. informal escalation in another post.

Addressing the second question requires project managers to look within.  There is a strong tendency among new leaders to revert to what brought them to their leadership position — technical or functional excellence.  As we’ve blogged before (here and here), avoiding this temptation is paramount during escalations. 

Project leaders must be aware of escalation dimensions beyond technology — e.g., stakeholder perceptions, legal, security, public relations, etc.  How much awareness can one have with one’s head “under the hood” solving an issue?

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