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Project Escalation Process Guidelines


Quick Summary
Scope issues, major tradeoff decisions, and serious resource conflicts are all examples of situations that can require escalation to higher management.


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What this is

A guideline with examples for how a team can use "escalation processes" to raise project issues to higher authorities for timely resolution. An escalation process ensures that the next level of management is informed (often within a specific period of time), if an issue cannot be not resolved at the lower level.


Why it's useful

Although a team should strive to resolve as many issues and conflicts internally as possible, some issues can be serious enough to need attention from people outside the team, including upper management. Defining escalation approaches early on helps everyone knows how big issues will get resolved and what role they will be required to play.

Typical project situations requiring escalation include conflicting resource demands threatening project staffing, group dependencies not being met, scope disagreements, and issues with functionality of the project's deliverables nearing release time. (See the guideline for more on these scenarios.)


How to use it

Teams use and document escalation procedures with varying degrees of formality depending on the organization's size and culture and the size of the project.

  1. Read the guidelines to find situations that apply to your projects.

  2. View the examples to determine what formality of processes are most appropriate for your projects.

  3. Decide whether to document escalation processes as part of your project plan or in some other form.

  4. Set expectations with your team—what kinds of issues should be escalated by team members to the project manager, and which issues the PM will raise to the project sponsor.

  5. Ensure your team members understand how and when to use escalations, feel comfortable with the process, and are ready to raise issues quickly.


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Related Templates
Speaking Up – How to Make Your Case 
Learn how to make your case effectively with this simple model and accompanying checklist.

Establishing Ground Rules for Issue Escalation 
This worksheet guides your team through the important step of setting ground rules for initial communication of issues with your sponsor and team members.





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