Red, Amber, Green (RAG) status is a basic part of any Project Manager’s toolkit.
Used properly the RAG status keep stakeholders informed, increases your chances of delivering on time and improves your love life.
OK, I made up that last bit…but your improved success rate at work certainly couldn’t hurt.
The following conversation occurs surprisingly often.
Me: “Why is that task showing green? We both know you can’t possibly meet that date.”
PM: “I can’t turn it red yet because we haven’t passed the due date…”
If you’re a PM and you think that sounds right…you’re doing it wrong.
The objective of the RAG status is not to tell what has happened, but what is likely to happen. It is a call for help.
As soon as you believe a date cannot be met you should change the status.
Help can come in many forms. Extra resources, reprioritization, escalation by a senior manager, a hug etc. But the sooner you make the call the more chance you have of bringing that task back on track.
So what are the definitions?
RAG can be used for many different things but, if we stick with just date scenarios, these are a good starting point.
||Off track and deadlines may be missed. Be ready.
||Team to work on the problem to bring things back on track. Extra help may be needed.
||Off track. Deadlines will be missed without remedial action.
||Escalation to the controlling group (steering committee, senior executives, etc.) to bring additional resources to bear.
As a Project Manager, you should not be afraid to turn something amber or red. In fact, I would say it is your duty to do so as soon as you are aware you have a problem.
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. It takes a confident person to put their hand up and admit they can’t do it alone.
But, for the sake of your career, don’t spring this on people in a meeting, talk to the project sponsor and key people ahead of time and make sure they agree with your assessment. Project steering committees are not the place to surprise people that have an influence on your future!
Used appropriately the RAG status can bring problems under control and turn you into a hero.
Why not just turn things red all the time and get all of the resources and assistance you can?
Two words…Cry wolf!
Turning things red too early on a regular basis is going to seriously tick off people and practically guarantee that when you really do need help, you won’t get it. Use it…but use it sparingly.
Now go forth and improve your project outcomes…and your love life!