Project Management - Basics Methods Tasks: Decisions and escalations

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Text comes from: Das neue Projektmanagement: Methoden, Techniken, Tools, die besser funktionieren (2014) by Andrea Ramscheidt, published by BusinessVillage Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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In the course of a project often decisions have to be made. Sometimes it even requires an escalation. Here we show you how to be brave and sovereign deal with decisions and escalation.

Project Management - Fundamentals Methods Tasks: Decisions and Escalations escalation

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Andrea Ramscheidt andrea-ramscheidtAndrea Ramscheidt is an expert in project management processes in companies.


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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:

  1. What is the conflict about?
  2. What is the reason?
  3. Who uses the conflict?
  4. What part do I have in the conflict?
  5. What are the possible solutions for the conflict?
  6. 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.

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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.

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Example: escalation process

The escalation paths for your project can be defined as follows:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Escalation Level 3: The third escalation level is clarification by the management. The department management decides whether and when escalated to the management.
  4. 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 presents 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:

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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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  1. Holger Prieske

    If they do not know what to do then they leave
    first to the project manager, then to the department manager, then to his boss, and then to the management.

    So trivial statements are not there.

    You do not get any problems solved by including as many management people as possible.
    They can only make two choices:
    "We put the customer off" or "We cancel the project".
    How should people who only know the subject very casually and understand the problems find a solution?

    Independent outsiders, to use as a mediator or dispute mediator is always a good idea, but that need not be a manager, because you take rather a specialist from another department - or someone with a psychological background.
    Although they offer no answers, but they can ask good questions and thus direct thinking processes in one.

    • Simone Janson

      Thanks for your comment, we will forward it to the author.

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