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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Doing escalation for resolving issues - when to do ? A tricky situation

Say you are in a position where you are trying to get an update from somebody in another team and it is just not happening. There could be several reasons for why you need an update or are dependent on somebody.
- You could be using a component made by another team and there is some defect or feature you need from them, and the update you need for your schedule is not happening
- The other team member provides you a service and you need something critical, and you are not getting an update
- There are some resources due to you from another team (a developer has taken a team transfer to your team or you for a project, you are getting some more people to your team), but you are not getting an update from the manager of the developer about the schedule of this transfer, and you are now wondering what to do.
And so on, this is just a short list of items; there could be a huge such list of items that need you to depend on people from other teams. In most cases, this works out fine, but there can be times when you are not getting the information you need, and that is screwing up your data processing or your scheduling. So what you do in such cases ? It could be that the person from whom you are trying to get such information does not have those details anyhow available and instead of letting you know about the information not available, they are delaying providing you that update.
One solution that most people come up with is using the measure of escalating. Escalation means to involve the manager or somebody senior in the discussion (typically through the medium of email) so that you are sending a message to the actual person from whom you want information. In an ideal world, the person to whom you are escalating would have a much concept of  the need of this information that you need and would be able to provide you the information. And this same concept ensures that the person who was not providing you the information earlier will now provide you this information.
However, it does not always work like that. Sometimes escalation does not work, and can even be counter-productive. What are some of these cases ?
- If the person at the other end really does not have this information, then escalation may finally get you a response to the extent of "We don't have this information right now, but will provide you this information ASAP once we get it". At the same time, it may make people at the other end irritated, and you may still not get the information you are looking for.
- The person at the other end is busy with work that is at a higher priority than the work that you are asking for. This is something that can happen fairly easily with teams that are shared, and there really is no good solution. I had a case like that once where I did escalate, and got an answer from the manager that was to the effect that we would really not get anything for the next 6 months, and the escalation would have to be at the level of Vice-President for something to really happen.
- The person at the other end is somebody who is senior and gets irritated at the escalation. I had a case like that once where the person did not find the issue serious enough that they believed that it required an escalation and the final answer I received was almost in the nature of a put down. I was in the awkward position of having to get the answer from the same person again in the next week. The manager did not get involved.
There can be numerous other cases where escalation does not work. Of course, it does work in many cases where the answer is available, just that the information is not being given to you.
The primary item you should be looking for is to get a reply from the person at the other end, and you should pursue that before trying to get an escalation. Use multiple methods such as trying to call the other person, leave them a voice message, see whether you can get to meet them. If this does not seem to work, try sending an email which states the criticality of the information to you, the timeframe within which you need the information. However, if this still does not work and this is critical to you, then go ahead and escalate.

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