The Fallacy of Red, Amber, Green Reporting

Gene Gendel is Certified Scrum Coach (CSC), agile practice leader and transformation agent. His primary focus is helping organizations in adopting agile at large, improving organizational structure, culture, tools, techniques, processes, norms and behaviors. Gene works equally close with senior management at the enterprise level as well as individual teams, in single- and multi-team settings, while providing bi-directional support: top-down and bottom-up. His coaching style combines training, mentoring and leading by example.

Although the RAG system (Red-Amber-Green) is still widely used in conventional project management as the method of rating issues or reporting on status, it is not only inaccurate, it is also counterproductive. There are agile reporting practices that are much more reliable.

Let’s take a look at typical definitions of RAGs that are used to rate projects:

Rarely do we see projects, where the categories above are meaningfully parametrized, by using numbers. But even in situations when they are, numerical values representing each category are not comparable, so the problem of accuracy still remains.

Lack of Accuracy and Reliability
One of the key issues with RAG project status reporting is that they represent a point-in-time situation. Frequently collected from different functional groups--such as business analysis, design, architecture, development and testing--statuses get collated and someone (usually the first-level project manager) assigns them a color grading.

Between the time initial data is collected and the time RAG reporting is produced, there is usually lag time of at least a couple of days, sometimes weeks. This means that by the first time RAG reporting is presented at a project status meeting, it is already outdated. By the time status reports get produced across multiple projects and combined for senior-level status reporting, more …

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