Losing my RAG

Losing my RAG

Is your RAG report giving you:

  • A false sense of optimism about the status of a project?
  • A false sense of pessimism about the status of a project?
  • A true impression of the status of a project?

How do you know?

Cards on the table: I don’t like RAG reports. They’re specious: able to give the reader a false sense of panic, or worse: a false sense of optimism.

At least they give us lovely little anecdotes and in-jokes.

  • There’s the watermelon RAG report: a project that appears green but is solid red all the way through.
  • There are those stories you can relate about getting asked to set the project to be yellow because a red status would get a senior manager into trouble.
  • What about that PM in your organisation who cries wolf with Red RAGs at the slightest opportunity?

I can see the aspiration is sound: RAG reports are meant to simplify noise into signals, but can often do the opposite.

I suppose it must have been an aspiration to break down the uncertainties around RAG statuses that led to the creation of this notice I saw the other day:


We’ve gone from three statuses: RAG; to eight: BG(A/G)A(A/R)R(DB)B.

Imagine the conversations in the PMO!

“Hey, Fred! How’s your BG(A/G)A(A/R)R(DB)B report for the web replatform project coming along?”

I like solving problems, and I think the author of this list tried to solve a problem. Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to tear the whole thing up and start again.

I think better solutions are ones that use some form of objective measurement, so as to reduce the subjectiveness of human interpretation. Burndown/ Burnup reports are good. So is good old conversation and spending time with the team delivering value to your organisation.

That project you want the report on is important, isn’t it?

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