• Donald Davis

Stopping the Show

This is a real scenario described to me by a client. An individual contributor we will call Jess is trying to complete her work on a strategic groundbreaking project. As she works along she finds that there is a significant issue in operations that will cause a shortage in supplies needed to complete the project. Because this shortage is outside of Jess’s silo she decides to mention it to her manager and then drop it.

One week later at the next project meeting, this issue comes up and Jess admits that she knew about the issue last week. She then states that she has tried to do something about shortages in operations before but the operations team does not resolve these types of issues. The impact of this shortage is tremendous and this issue will delay the project significantly. Had the company started on a resolution one week earlier this issue would not have caused a delay.

Although you could put blame on Jess the additional question I would ask is did she have a way to escalate the issue? If the issue has been worked by the individual, project team, and line manager is there a process to rais it up? Is there a process where the brightest minds in the company come together to discuss a solution?

Jess should have had a way to stop the show so that the issue could be dealt with.


In a typical play, intermission is when the play stops, and you get a short 15 min average break to stretch your legs. What is most interesting to me is what is happening in the story right as intermission occurs and the show is stopped.

For my fellow Hamilton fans, the song Non-Stop is playing, and Raymond Burr and Alexander Hamilton are singing about the rivalry between them. This sets up the rest of the show it’s a real amplifier for what is coming next.

From an operational excellence standpoint, escalations happen when they happen. Who is allowed to stop the show? What then happens to get things up and running again?


Defining what power people have to escalate and clearly defining how issues are resolved is critical to every organization that wants to grow. At some point, people in your organization will run into a situation where the show needs to be stopped. Who do they go to, and what happens to define the issue? After a direct line manager tries to resolve the issue, where does the case go next? At some point, does a leadership team gather to resolve the problem?

Proposed Escalation Process:

L1 – Employee and individuals try to resolve the issue, capture issue details along with what has been tried.

L2 – Direct Manager and Employee try to resolve the issue and what additional measures have been tried.

L3 – Senior Executives and individuals involved in L1 & L2 develop a final resolution plan.

Stopping the show can be an essential point. How you come back may be more critical. Build your plan now.

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