Escalate Early and Often

People often see escalating a disagreement to management as a sign of failure. Worse yet, they see it as harmful towards their relationship with their peers. This is exactly incorrect.

Facebook decouples teams whenever possible to remain agile. With a clear shared strategy such a division of labor reduces communication overhead. But it puts more pressure on the quality of that communication.

When two teams find themselves out of alignment, it is tempting to compromise. But teams working around one another will harbor animosity. Deferred conflict will become blocking conflict. The dispute may get resolved but at a real cost of time, thrash, and ill will.

The best way to collaborate is to escalate issues early on. When teams identify a fundamental disagreement, they need to escalate immediately. This means within hours, not days. Every day that passes without resolution only increases the cost of resolution. I've seen teams become entrenched in their views in as little as a week.

This is critical beyond the teams directly involved. Every strategy is incomplete and every roadmap has flaws. They only improve when we expose their weaknesses as we work. Escalation is one of the best ways to examine how our plans fall short. If we do this pairwise then we risk arriving at different solutions rather than improving the underlying strategy to the benefit of all.

Escalation needs to be easy. If teams see them as competitions or exercises in blame, they will remain unpopular. Instead, we must reward them for highlighting an area of uncertainty in the strategy. Forums for escalation should be widely accessible, frequently checked in on, and heavily promoted by leadership.

Escalating doesn't have to be a big deal. But failing to escalate almost always is.