Escalation: A Detailed Definition
Escalation is a term used in various contexts and holds different meanings in different scenarios. Below, we explore escalation as a strategy in conflict management, businesses, project management, and information technology sector.
Escalation in Conflict Management
In conflict management, escalation refers to intensifying a conflict or dispute. It is often characterized by increasingly aggressive or harmful behaviours from concerned parties. The intervention or involvement of a higher authority, or an escalation of demands or threats can signify an escalation of a conflict.
While people often see conflict escalation negatively - as it can lead to violence or war - it is not always undesirable. In certain instances, escalating a conflict can lead to its resolution. When a higher authority intervenes, they can dispense justice, enforce compliance, or mediate negotiations. Escalation can therefore help in breaking the stalemate in situations where conflicting parties are unable to find common grounds for reconciliation.
However, conflict escalation should be managed carefully because if left unchecked, it can spiral out of control, leading to unnecessary harm to all parties involved.
Escalation in Business
In the business domain, escalation usually refers to the progression of a project, a task, or a customer service ticket to higher levels within the organizational hierarchy. For instance, if an employee cannot solve an issue or make a decision due to its complexity or its perceived risks, they would escalate the matter to their supervisor or manager.
Customer service is one area where escalation is very common. A customer service representative might escalate a customer's issue to a supervisor or a manager if they're unable to resolve the issue. This is usually done to satisfy the customer or to adhere to the company's policies.
The primary objective of such escalation is to utilize the experience and authority of higher levels within the organization to tackle challenges that lower levels might not be competently equipped to address.
Escalation in Project Management
In project management, escalation refers to raising issues to higher levels of management or decision-making authority when those issues cannot be resolved at their current level. This process outlines the steps to take when a project goes out of control or faces any unforeseen challenges.
Escalation isn't always a sign of a problem. Sometimes, it is a part of the procedure outlined in a project management plan. It makes sure that the information about the project's progress reaches the right stakeholders and that the right people make the decisions that influence the project's outcome.
Escalation in Information Technology
In the Information Technology sector, especially in IT Service Management (ITSM), escalation is the process of identifying and reporting technical issues to the next support level for resolution.
There are essentially two types of escalations in ITSM - functional escalation and hierarchical escalation. Functional or horizontal escalation is where an issue or a situation is escalated from one technology to another for problem-solving. Hierarchical or vertical escalation, on the other hand, refers to escalating an issue up the organizational hierarchy for resolution when the lower tier is unable to resolve it.
Regardless of the context, escalation essentially implies elevation - it could be the elevation of the dispute, work issue, project issue, or technical issue - from its existing level to the next level. The purpose is often to ensure the timely resolution of problems by involving those who are more capable, experienced, or vested with higher authority. Yet, it calls for a cautious approach to prevent issues from spiralling out of control. Broadly, the concept of escalation is based on the belief that sharing and escalating tensions or issues is invariably better than hiding them or letting them fester.