Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
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Ramiro Rodrigues
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Recent Posts

Project Planning Using Canvas

Project Management Triangles and Integrated Reasoning

Best Practices for Managing Project Escalations

Questions from Project Management Central - Interviews

The Ying and Yang of Resilience

Best Practices for Managing Project Escalations

By Marian Haus, PMP

Throughout any given initiative, project managers must deal with issues that are sure to arise. Some are solvable within the project organization, with or without the project manager’s influence. Others however — especially those that could affect the outcome of a project — go beyond a project manager’s range of influence and authority.

Such major issues and risks can lead to escalations, which require special handling and management.

Various project management guidelines and specialized literature insufficiently cover the escalation management domain.

Escalation means trouble — so it’s a word very few people want to hear about. It also means that a higher authority will need to be called up to take action before it is too late.

When necessary, and if done in a timely and appropriate manner, escalation management can help a project manager solve issues outside of their authority or influence.

Here are some tips and tricks for project managers to better deal with escalations.

1. Be Prepared

From the project outset, define a clear escalation path and mechanism. For instance, establish an escalation committee (e.g., your sponsors or upper management board) and agree on escalating major issues when necessary and bypassing certain hierarchy levels in order to escalate faster.

Don’t overdo it! You should not escalate every encountered issue—only escalate major issues that have considerable impacts.

2. Assess and Qualify the Risk

Is it serious enough to escalate? Is there anything else you can do to avoid an escalation? Is it the right time to escalate?

Certainly, in order to be effective, the escalation should be raised in a timely manner. Therefore, neither should you exaggerate with going through an elaborated risk assessment, nor should you wait too long until raising the escalation (e.g., do not wait until the next reporting period is due).

3. Communicate the Escalation

After you’ve done everything you could have to prevent the escalation (you raised awareness, you communicated, you have pushed and pulled), it is time to escalate!

To escalate effectively and efficiently, first keep a calm and clear head. Then, follow these tips:

  • Escalate via the channel that is most appropriate for your project context. Ideally, the escalation should be communicated in a face-to-face meeting or call. Emails can be the most ineffective escalation tools, because they can delay the resolution if the emails are not handled in a timely manner. Emails also can lead to misunderstandings if the context is not well understood. Additionally, they can lead to a deadlock if sent to multiple and unnecessary individuals or when it is unclear who the targeted person is for taking action. In short: Avoid escalations via email.
  • Avoid getting personal and refrain from finger pointing. Focus on the issue at hand. This should be communicated and addressed objectively.
  • Explain the major issue and its implications. Keep it short and simple, so that everyone requested to help you can understand.
  • Explain what you did to avoid the issue and escalation. Again, keep it short. Otherwise, you will end up in endless apologies.
  • If possible, make a proposal with two or three resolution options. Explain their potential effect on the issue at hand and ideally make a recommendation on which options to go for.

4. Follow Up

Generally, every escalation requires some resolution time for when the project manager and the project team will implement the decisions agreed upon by the escalation board.

You will need to regularly inform your escalation committee with status and progress updates until the risk and problem are completely resolved. And, after getting back on track, you should conduct a lessons-learned exercise with your project team to learn and grow from the encountered crisis situation.

Would you agree? How are you managing escalations in your projects?

 

Posted by Marian Haus on: October 06, 2017 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Determining the Value of Value

Categories: Earned Value, Stakeholder

What exactly is value? A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) -- Fifth Edition suggests value is a concept unique to each organization and encompasses the total sum of all tangible and intangible value elements. 

Determining the tangible ones is relatively straightforward and can easily be reduced to a financial return. More difficult is understanding the intangible value elements the project can create -- and identifying low-cost options with the potential to create massive intangible value by creating favorable outcomes in the minds of stakeholders.

One simple example is the practice of cutting small viewing windows in construction site fences. The cost is minimal, but the practice delivers value through improved safety because passers-by don't need to stand near the gate to see what's going on. There's also the public relations value of letting the public see the actual progress of the work. 

The challenge is finding and tracking these valuable intangibles, bearing in mind most of the value will be created in the minds of various stakeholders. One useful tool is consultant Edward de Bono's Six Value Medals: 

  • Gold Medal: Covers the things that matter directly to people, including pride, achievement, praise or humiliation.
  • Silver Medal: Centers on the purpose and mission of the organization and what matters to the overall business. It considers what will help or hinder us in pursuit of our goals. Examples might include profits, market share or brand image.
  • Steel Medal: Considers the effects on the quality or fitness for purpose of what we're doing, either positive or negative.
  • Glass Medal: Looks at impacts on our ability to innovate and change to do things in a new or improved way.
  • Wood Medal: Draws attention to the environment in the broadest sense, describing positive or negative effects of our decisions or actions on the world around us.
  • Brass Medal: Asks whether there's any resulting change in the way we and others perceive or are perceived.
Based on those, we can perform a "value scan" when determining courses of action within the project and prioritize actions to achieve the values that matter most.

Take a simple example. The last office refit covered up a duct in the wall of the CEO's new office. Now your project has to rip the sidewall out to access the duct and upgrade the cabling. Where's the extra value? Some possible medal ideas include:

  • Gold: Issue an internal news item showing the CEO cooperating with the project despite the inconvenience.
  • Steel: Make sure the duct is accessible in future without demolition work.
  • Glass: Use the repairs to offer an opportunity to update the CEO's office color scheme incorporating her preferences. 
There are probably other possibilities as well depending on the actual project. How do you assess the value of your project to your stakeholder community?
Posted by Lynda Bourne on: December 31, 2013 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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