RAG Status Reporting - Harper Hallett Consulting

RAG Status Reporting

In this video, I'll explain why and how Project Managers often report the wrong Project RAG status and introduce the Watermelon RAG status.

If you prefer to read, there is a slight;y edited transcript below the video.

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Video Transcript

It’ s Chris Hallett here from Chris Hallett training and Harper Hallett Consulting and in this video, I want to talk to you about progress reporting on projects and specifically around the red, amber green reporting commonly known as the RAG status.

For those of you in my community who aren’t project managers or not familiar with RAG status, this is one of the tools that project managers have, to report the state of their project.

Quite simply if they are reporting green everything is good, and if you are amber that’s a warning, and red is, we have a problem. Different people have different metrics as to what determines amber and red.

In one organisation I worked in as a PMO manager, one of the challenges was that one of my colleagues was colour blind so couldn't you tell the difference, but that's the subject of another story.

This video has been inspired very much by a post I read today on LinkedIn by Alan Harper who is a Programme Office Manager and by a further article that was written by Ken Burrell from Pragmatic PMO who wrote a very good article.

Both of those people looked at this from a very practical project management point of view. I want to talk to you, and look at this from a psychological point of view and understand really what's happening.

Before going into that, let's get one thing clear, all of those things that are written about RAG reporting and on progress reporting are all very valid things but in this video, I want to look at this from a completely different angle, because we need to understand a little bit about how the mind works.

I’ve been in a situation before, and I’m sure you have as well, where somebody's asked you a question, and you've answered instinctively and the person asking the question is then said no, go away and think about it. In my world is completely the wrong thing to do, because, what you need to understand, is that when you’re asked a question, the first thing that comes into your head is the instinctive answer coming straight from your unconscious mind. Invariably that's the correct answer. When you ask somebody to go away and think about it, what you doing is asking them to evaluate all the different pieces of information they have and then, come back to you with an answer. Quite often, and I'm sure you've experienced this, people give the answer that you want to hear, which isn't necessarily the right answer.

When we report RAG status in a project, often we have two statuses. We have the status that is driven from the metrics in whichever programme management tool we‘re using. I've used Microsoft Project server and I've used Workfront. It is a calculation based on all sorts of information; on the risk of the project, the open risks, where you are on the plan, where you are on the budget. There's also another status that the project manager can complete, which is his view of the status of the project and often the project manager uses that to highlight a potential problem.

The project could be reporting green, but he might say amber because a warning that if we don't do a particular thing by a week on Friday, or manage this risk we could be in trouble.

It's important that when project manager writes that status or is asked what the state of the project is, that they give the first answer that comes into their head because that is what they truly believe.  I've been in situations before as a coach and hypnotherapist, where I've asked the person a question. For example, do you really want to fix this problem. What they do is they then say, let me think about it. On the surface they might say they do want to fix the problem, but deep down the underlying answer is no, they don't want to fix it.

This article I referred to, was called the watermelon RAG status. Quite simply Watermelon is green on the outside and when you cut it through the middle, it’s red inside and so this is why I made this video to highlight the fact to you that quite often people report a project on green or possibly amber because that's what they think you want to hear, where actually the underlying trend in the project that it's on red.

It's us as programme managers and programme office managers to actually get that initial response from them and there are a whole set of techniques that we can use (which I’ll covering later videos) to ensure that they are actually giving you the real answer and not the answer that you want to hear.

 I'd love to hear your comments and feedback so just drop them in the comments section below and you can also me a direct message and let's start a conversation about Watermelon RAG status

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