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TEST!!! Alex S. Brown, PMP IPMA-C

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Adding all sorts of extra line-break tags. Should we disable wpautop? Can we do it post-by-post somehow? Would be good to leave it on for comments, at least. Also consider installing the Advanced TinyMCE editor plug-in, to add table support, pull in styles from the stylesheet automatically, and to stop converting DIV to P.

Red-Yellow-Green (R/Y/G) reports have become incredibly popular as a way
to quickly show the status of a project or a group of projects. An executive
or senior decision-maker can quickly scan a row or column of colored
indicators and get an overview of status.

One Company’s Approach

Each company may take a different approach to these reports. We will
examine one company as a sample, before reviewing some general
principles.

The report fits on one side of a letter-sized paper. It summarizes the
status of between 15 and 25 projects. Each project gets a row, and each row
has room for four indicators and an explanation for each. The four R/Y/G
indicators are for Planning, Schedule, Budget, and Objectives.

Each indicator has a threshold for each color rating. Many indicators are
tied to our policies and procedures. For instance, budgets with variances
above a certain dollar amount or percentage need to be explained or revised.
Budget indicators become Yellow when a budget is expected to be close to or
over that threshold, and Red when it is definitely going to go over and
action needs to be taken.

The schedule indicator is driven by the number of weeks delay and number
of times the target dates have been revised in the last month. Yellow means
that schedule is at risk for more than two weeks delay or that there has been
a target date changed within the last month. Red means that either the
schedule is at risk for more than four weeks delay, the project end-date is
“TBD”, or the target date has been changed two or more times in the last
month.

Some indicators have guidelines but require individual judgment to come up
with a final decision. Sometimes a Yellow might mean that an objective or a
date is “at risk”. Not all indicators can be based on solid
numerical data and thresholds.

Setting Standards for Your Company

Each of these definitions is based on how one particular company runs its
projects. Each indicator serves a specific need of the senior executive team.
I created a draft report and draft definitions for each indicator, and the
executive team reviewed, modified, and eventually approved the new report
format.

To adopt a new report format successfully at your company, look at what
information does and does not matter to your decision-makers. Define Red,
Yellow, and Green so that they will drive people’s interest and attention.
Isolate the factors that really show project health and project problems.
Design indicators that will dive executives to make decisions and to take
action.

An internal auditor reviewed my report recently and noted that certain
indicators were almost always Green. The report was changed to show other
information that would be different for each project, to show data that
helped people make decisions. Ensure that the indicators you choose will be
useful and relevant. Chart what they would have shown over the past few
reporting periods to see when and how they change.

Remember to always be prepared to change the reports. As an organization
matures, some metrics may become more predictable and under better control. A
Red-Yellow-Green report needs to show differences and variation. Change the
reports as your organization improves its processes.

A Few Tips and Tricks

Red, Yellow, Green indicators with shapes as well as color; uses an octagon, stop-sign shape for red, an upside down triangle (yield) for yellow, and a diamond for greenUse
shapes as well as color for R/Y/G

Here are some other tips to help when designing a report:

  • Keep it to one page if at all possible
  • Make the list easy to scan (plenty of white space, even columns and
    rows)
  • Consider using shapes or text as well as color, in case people must
    print on a black-and-white printer or in case people are color blind (try a
    stop-sign for Red, a yield sign for Yellow, and a diamond for Green)
  • Provide room for a text explanation of critical issues and
    indicators
  • Focus on the Red and Yellow projects, but not exclusively
  • Spend time on projects that are consistently Green, to find best
    practices and to make sure that the team’s status report is truly
    accurate
  • Make public the standards and guidelines used to set the indicators, so
    that people know how projects are being judged
  • Involve the most senior people who will receive these reports in the
    report design process, to ensure it meets their needs
  • Provide drill-down reports to explain the details behind each indicator
    and to avoid the need to clutter the main report with details

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