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Friday, July 17, 2015

6 signs of bad escalations in a Managed Services environment

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A Managed Services environment that I know where almost all employees who work at the ground has low morale and less motivated and as a result there were frequent resignations every month and the attrition was at its peak at 22%. To understand the problem in detail, we conducted a survey among the team members and interviewed few of them. At the end of the analysis, the result was a shocking one for us as it turned out that "Bad escalation" is the top root cause for all the attrition that the organisation was facing.

Managed Services is a practice of engaging a third party company in managing non-functional (IT, Human Resources, Procurements, etc.,) areas of an organisation. A perfect managed services partnership will help the engaging company to reduce overhead and help to focus on their core business area while the engaged company will put their skills and expertise to work to grow its business. In this kind of environment the engaging company and the engaged company are "partners". On this outset, does escalations work in a managed services environment? The short answer is “Yes”, but only for right escalations.

So, what is escalation? "Escalation" is a defined method of reporting a problem to responsible authorities at different hierarchical levels. Escalation clauses are defined to avoid total failure and to ensure that different brains attend the problem at different levels to fix it. 

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In the corporate world, escalation clauses, escalation matrix, the procedure of escalation and consequences for not meeting SLA are defined in the service agreement. The definition of escalation clauses should be defined carefully. So that it doesn’t end up bringing unnecessary attention and thus wasting the vital energy of key people in an organization. A carefully drafted escalation clause-matrix provides parties a resolution mechanism. On the other hand, poorly drafted escalation clause-matrix leads to uncertainty - which itself can give rise to disputes and, at worst, breaks a mutually beneficial contract. 

What is the expected outcome of an escalation?

Having understood what escalation is, one must also understand the expected outcome of an escalation. The following are the intended outcome of an escalation.
  1. To bring the right people, process and tool to fix a problem.
  2. To bring the right amount of energy to resolve critical issues that are repetitive in nature.
  3. To define, redefine and author a preventive process to avoid potential problems in future.
  4. To restructure inefficient resources i.e. people, tool, etc.,

What are the repercussions of a bad escalation?

A bad escalation will not bring the intended outcome, but it would bring in unintended outcome for which one might have to spend even more energy to handle than to fix the real problem. 

"Our numbers have increased in Vietnam because the aggression of others has increased in Vietnam. There is not, and there will not be, a mindless escalation." - Lyndon B. Johnson

The following are the common repercussions of a bad escalation:
    1. Waste of vital energy in discussing a problem at various levels.
    2. Low productivity – The focus will be more on responding to the escalation, but not in resolution.
    3. Demoralised work environment – might lead good resources leaving the organization.
    4. Unsettled work environment – frequent change in work pool causing repetitive training.
    5. Lack of permanent resolution and frequent recurrence.
    6. Very less time spent in process oriented resolutions.

    6 signs of a bad escalation in a work environment

    1. High frequency of problems.
    2. Repetition of problems similar in nature.
    3. Low morale in the work environment among the resources.
    4. Frequent resignations from the work pool.
    5. Low productivity per resource per week.
    6. Lack of preventive actions to stop recurrence.

    What kind of problems qualifies for an escalation?

    It is important for us to draft guidelines to strategically advise the members of an organization to avoid unintended bad consequences from an escalation. In general, the following are typical example situations that need call out for an escalation.
    1. A problem that occurs frequently and occurrences are similar in nature
    2. A problem that has no workaround solution
    3. A problem that is a beginning of a big failure
    4. A problem that affects day-to-day operations or business as usual (BAU) operations
    A timely good escalation of the situation will help bring the expert parties together and help us to resolve the problem. Meanwhile, a bad escalation will give a false satisfaction and further worsen the situation by demoralising the resources and exposing the environment to further risks.

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