Monday, March 18, 2013

Escalation Processes: Using Carrots and Sticks Together


By: Scott Horvath, Mar. 18, 2013
Photo of Scott Horvath

Managing communications policy and processes for an agency is no easy task. If it’s your job to deal with the multitude of rules and executive memoranda that relate to websites, press releases, use of logos, and the like, then you know how difficult it can be to continually fulfill those various requirements. You’ve also likely worked with a few offices or programs that have a tendency to ignore those requirements, or perhaps their communications support staff simply no longer exists.

Dealing with Noncompliance - Two Approaches

To deal with noncompliance at your agency and effectively implement policy requirements, you need to have a governance structure in place to help address potential problems when they occur. Some agencies tend to take the carrot approach as a problem resolver:
Diagram of a man holding a bat and some money, titled carrot-and-stick management
Flickr user dgray_xplane, Creative Commons BY-ND 2.0

“It appears there’s an issue with your website. We recommend that you fix this issue to further improve our visitor experience. Please let us know if you need any assistance.”

While other agencies break out the stick:

“Your site has a problem. You’re in violation of Section 1(A), subpart 3(d). If you do not fix this issue in the next 24 hours, your site will be shut down and access to all files on the server terminated.”

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The “carrot” resolution is meant to be less intense, make the people or office in question aware of the problem, and provide help when needed. However, this approach sometimes comes off as being weak, too sensitive to hurt feelings, etc. The “stick” resolution is meant to be forceful, direct, a call to immediate action — we mean business! However this approach can sometimes come off as abrasive, unwilling to help, disrespectful, and overly controlling. Despite the stark differences, you can have both options at your disposal through a carefully crafted issue escalation process.

The Solution- Deploy an Escalation Process

There are a number of different approaches to an escalation process. Here is one option related to web governance: a base for you to consider for your own efforts.

Escalation Process Diagram. Full text description of this diagram is available in the main content area below.
Escalation Process Diagram, courtesy Scott Horvath.

With a little creativity, you can adapt the approach above to just about any communications (or other) policy or process issue and deal with problems in a consistent and appropriate way.

How do you escalate? Share your tips in the Comments, below.



Text Version of Escalation Process Diagram

For use by those with screenreaders, and others who want more detail about the escalation process I use.
  1. Resolution Team (RT) runs monthly scans of all website for policy requirements testing.
  2. The RT identifies issues with a website.
    • They notify the Website Point of Contact, and Website Developer.
  3. If the issue is resolved, the RT is notified and monthly scans continue as normal.
  4. If the issues is not resolved, the RT notifies: 
    • Website POC
    • Website Developer
      • inquires about the resolution issue
      • offers assistance in solving the issue
      • requests a response within 4 days of this notice
  5. If the issue is resolved, the RT is notified and monthly scans continue as normal.
  6. If this issue is not resolved, the RT notifies:
    •  Subdomain POC 
    •  Website POC
    •  Website Developer
      • indicates issues not resolved
      • offers assistance in solving the issue
      • requires 48 hour response
      • requires resolution within 3 weeks
  7. If the issue is resolved, the RT is notified and monthly scans continue as normal.
  8. If the issue is not resolved, the RT notifies:
    •  Regional Director/Area Director
    •  Communications Director
    •  Subdomain POC
    •  Website POC 
    •  Website Developer 
      •   indicates issues not resolved 
      •   requires resolution within 1 week
  9. If the issue is resolved, the RT is notified and monthly scans continue as normal.
  10. If the issue is not resolved, the RT notifies:
    •  Deputy Director 
    •  Regional Director/Area Director 
    •  Communications Director 
    •  Subdomain POC
    •  Firewall Team 
    •  Website POC
    •  Website Developer 
      • provides full history of resolution attempts and escalation 
  11. If the issue is resolved, the RT is notified and monthly scans continue as normal.
  12. If the issue is not resolved, the RT: 
    • requests subdomain shutdown from firewall team within 24 hours 
    • website remains “off” until full resolution occurs
  13. If the issue is resolved, the RT is notified and monthly scans continue as normal.

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