Why is the escalation process important in the company?
The escalation process is critical in companies for to make decisions that they are as much as possible in line with company objectives and to allow you to make decisions quickly.
All the more it is clear the escalation process in the company, they are so much more quick decisions. This concept is simple to understand but difficult to apply in organizations that lack a well-defined hierarchical structure.
Let's take an example: if two managers of a function or of one business unit they debate a problem and cannot agree. The next step is to go to the higher-level manager who is responsible for the work of both managers and make a decision together. In this case the higher level manager plays the role of arbitrator but also of mediator between the parties. It is in fact a case that falls within the scope of the team management And of the negotiation which are essential soft skills for managers.
The senior manager can use various techniques to arrive at the best decision for the company. It will also apply techniques of problem solving and the negotiation techniques to reach a conclusion satisfactory for all. The outcomes can be win-win or win-lose.
How is escalation managed in the company?
Escalation should be seen as a normal process within companies and not a problem with the managerial capacity of a company's employees. Many times escalation is seen as a lack of problem solving skills or a personal failure of the workers involved 😞 but this is a distortion of the escalation process due to ignorance of the correct functioning of the escalation process itself.
The most frequent case that occurs in companies is that in which two managers debate the solution of a problem, do not find an agreement and then one of the two escalates towards the common manager. This action by one of the two generates three consequences, all negative:
- The manager responsible for both of them gets irritated
- The escalating worker presents the information partially
- The non-escalating worker cannot help make the correct decision
The consequences of this type of action can also be good for the person escalating individually if they get a decision in their favor, but the decision made may not be the most correct one for the company.
When should you escalate?
It is necessary to escalate in all cases in which two managers of the same level or two members of a project team find themselves debating the solution of a problem and it is not possible to find an agreement on the decision or solution to be implemented. If we are in the context of a project it will be the project manager's task to manage the problem solving and negotiation process to find a solution. In the event that the solution is not found and the project is therefore at risk of failure, the project manager will report the instance of the problem to the sponsor of the project. In the event that we are within a function or a business unit, two workers can escalate whenever they are unable to make a decision or solve a problem that affects both of them.
However, escalation should be an exception as workers are expected to be able to perform their duties smoothly in normal situations.
Cases where the escalation process does not work
The first case in which the escalation process does not work is when the hierarchical levels in the company are not clear. An example could be the case in which two managers of the same formal level, for example Senior Manager, report to different hierarchical levels, for example one reports to a director, the other reports to a C level.
A variation of the previous case is when two colleagues discussing a problem have two different hierarchical levels, for example a senior manager and a director. In this case, seniority generally prevails, but the decisions made by the individual with the greatest seniority are not necessarily the most suitable.
The second case, and largely more dysfunctional, is that in which there is no real escalation path because the highest decision-making level, the CEO, is already involved in the debate between individuals for which he cannot play the role of ultimate impartial decision-maker. .
What to do if the CEO is involved in team discussions on a regular basis.
If the ultimate decision maker, the CEO is involved in everyday operational decisions, he can take responsibility for decisions made at the team level or he could delegate and control the results. We cannot exclude a priori the existence of cases in which the CEO takes decisions that should be taken at a more operational level and at the same time holds his collaborators responsible for the decisions taken.
Examples of company escalation
- Two senior managers or two directors cannot agree on which vendor to use for developing an application because each would like to use a different vendor.
- During the management of a project, a problem arises that could postpone the project delivery date beyond the maximum limit set.
- First-level customer service fails to resolve a customer problem by following standard procedures that are provided to first-level customer service. For example, the customer wants to return a product and have a refund beyond the time limit set by the company for the refund.
Who is responsible for managing the escalation process in the company?
In fact, the responsibility would be of the CEO and the top management, in practice, however, if the CEO does not know the correct functioning of the escalation process it will be impossible to implement it.
Escalating means taking a decision to be made to a higher hierarchical level. It is a fundamental process for companies that must be managed correctly.
The escalation process can start from a single manager who turns to his superior for the management of a problem that he cannot solve at his own level or within the delegate given to him / her. Or it can start with two managers who cannot agree on a decision and have to go to the higher level to make a decision.
The project manager must escalate to the project sponsor when a problem arises issue risks overshooting the project in terms of delivery times, quality or costs. If, on the other hand, the problem that emerged can be solved without impacts exceeding the tolerance margins, it is not necessary to escalate.