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Over the past month I’ve read several interesting articles on status reports and I thought I would expand on an old post of mine (Red, Yellow, Green, Blue project status).

Obviously there is some common ground when it comes to status reports, but if you are going to have a status report or dashboard view of projects and you want to use the stop light approach as part of your information how would you define what Green, Yellow and Red means and for what?

Let’s start with the basic way:
It is the old triple constraint: Scope, Time, Budget.You could have a stoplight for each one (Scope, Schedule and Budget). Then you need a method of how to determine what Green, Yellow, Red means.
Here is an example for Scope:
Green - We are on track to deliver committed scope by committed deadline with committed resources/funding.

Yellow - We are not on track to deliver committed scope by committed deadline with committed resources/funding, but we have a plan to get back to green.

Red - We are not on track and we need a plan to get the project back on track.
Here is an example that brings in a couple more data-points and shows a bit of the history of the project over the past 4 months:
Okay, so that is a general overview, but we all know as project managers we hate it when our projects slip into the yellow/red areas.
I’ve seen some organizations let the PM pick the color of the status in which yellow and red was meant to raise a flag that something is going on (using a reference as to when to change the color). I’ve also seen organizations that uses metrics pulled out of project documents along with the PM answering some questions on a rating system which then the dashboard crunches the numbers and selects the color rating.

What are some other metrics to follow?
How about a stoplight for risks?
If you capture a 1 to 5 rating for probability and impact multiply the two and if it reaches a certain level it will = yellow or red. This measurement isn’t meant to take the place of a full-blown weighted risk-assessment methodology, which should be calculated separately for larger projects.
How about a stoplight for resources?
Do you monitor your resources? If your resource are over allocated by 5-9% for the next report period it turns it yellow. If 10% or more it turns red. If you are tacking this in Project it should be easy to mine this data.

How often do we do this?
It depends on your organization and types of projects. You may have some mission critical projects that you want the PM to update the dashboard weekly. Or smaller side projects that a monthly update is okay. This is something that should be decided at the beginning of the project and I personally like to see this indicated in the project charter.

How about just one stoplight for the entire project?
Yes, this is possible if you set up metadata to output one rating number or leave it up the PM to decide on the color.
Finally, stoplights give us a quick view into a project and are an effect way to view project information as long as the team member or executive can drill down further into your project to see what is going on as to why things are yellow or red.

Working the system
The dashboard data is as good as the project data compiled to create it. Recently I spoke with a friend about her PMO and the stoplight concept. She was aware that PMs in her organization know how they can fool the system to keep their projects green (including just resaving the previous month update so it looks like it was updated). Knowing this is it important for the PMO to periodically check the status of their projects to make sure the PM is not trying to work the system (a mature PMO should conduct monthly analysis of a part of their PM process to make sure their PMs are in check).

Things to keep in mind
A red project does not = failure on the PM. It indicates that they are managing risks appropriately and requesting the appropriate degree of support to move projects back to green.
For more blog posts by Ryan check him out at:

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Comment by Ryan Endres on April 26, 2010 at 2:36pm
Thanks for the comment! You are correct, that it really throws a wrench into the situation when different major stakeholders define things different ways.
Comment by William Pirkey on April 26, 2010 at 1:28pm
Thank you, Ryan. What is often difficult is when I'm managing several projects at a time, with each one having its own threshold criteria. When my boss asked me "what does yellow and red mean to you", I pointed out that it is more about what it means to HER. It is a rollup status (I provide one color for each project) based on the selected criteria for that project. When it comes down to it:
+ Green: Project is on schedule, and no issues to report.
+ Red: Project is failing on one or more of the performance factors (Cost, Schedule, Quality) and action needs to be taken to correct it. (See commentary for required action.)
+ Yellow: Project is at-risk for failing in one or more performance factors unless action is taken to correct it.


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