6 Questions: Find causes for the problem
If you see any of the signs in this checklist in your project team, look for the causes. Interrupt your current project task to act. It is always better if a conflict does not arise at all.
If a conflict arises, prepare for a conflict resolution discussion. You can use the following or similar questions:
- What is the conflict about?
- What is the reason?
- Who uses the conflict?
- What part do I have in the conflict?
- What are the possible solutions for the conflict?
- Where is my limit?
The conflict-solution conversation
For the conflict resolution discussion you create a framework in which you can speak undisturbed. Take time for the conversation. Turn off your mobile phone. Let the conflict be described from the point of view of your interlocutor.
Ask for solution alternatives and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each conflict resolution together. Agree on a solution.
The follow-up talk
You can arrange a follow-up call to discuss briefly after a reasonable time, whether the solution has the desired effect, or whether you need to look for another solution.
It is not pleasant to have a conflict resolution talk. But a conflict does not come by ignoring it. If you ignore conflicts, these will escalate all the worse.
Avoid escalation at any cost?
An escalation is often perceived as something, which must be avoided in any case. Sometimes, however, timely escalation can prove very helpful. Many of my customers complain that their project managers are escalating too late.
This is why it is a good idea to clarify the escalation paths at the beginning of the project. If there is a conflict in your project that you want to counter as a project leader, you will not lose any additional time to think about the possible escalation paths at the time.
Example: escalation process
The escalation paths for your project can be defined as follows:
- Escalation level 1: A problem is clarified at the level of the project manager or with the external service provider. If no agreement is possible at this level, or additional costs are required for the solution, the second escalation stage must be included.
- Escalation level 2: A problem is escalated to the department heads level. The department then decides whether the problem can be solved at this level or the management is to be included in the escalation.
- Escalation Level 3: The third escalation level is clarification by the management. The department management decides whether and when escalated to the management.
- Escalation level 4: The last escalation stage is the steering committee of a project.
When you need to escalate a topic
It is important for you as a project manager: As soon as you realize that you can not solve a problem within the project, you have to escalate the issue. Equally important is that you do not have the responsibility to solve the problem with an escalation. You as a project manager are still responsible for the solution.
In the plain text: Prepare the escalation for the respective escalation stage by proactively supplying the actors at the next escalation stage with all information about the problem. They not only describe the problem, but provide a decision template with alternative solutions.
The levels of escalation
A decision template depicts the actual situation, describes the alternative options for action with their consequences as well as the associated efforts, activities and necessary decisions.
In the last section of the decision paper you make a recommendation and justify it. If necessary, an escalation takes place step by step over several levels:
Acute project risks are initially to escalate at the project manager level. Only when your possibilities for a de-escalation are exhausted do you add the next escalation stage.
Keep it in writing!
With regard to a possible escalation, it becomes clear that a complete written documentation of requirements, agreements, project plans and, in particular, deviations from planning and project implementation is mandatory.
Pure verbal agreements on relevant topics should therefore be avoided. If, after all, only a verbal agreement is made out of a situation, then let them be in writing eMail to confirm. For relevant project phone calls and conference calls, create a log.
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