Understanding RAG in Project Management

Have you ever seen project status reports that had colored boxes in different shades (e.g., amber, red)? Or project names written in these colors, while the rest of text is black. This is the RAG status for the project.
PMI estimates that 11.4% of investment is lost due to poor project performance. RAG reporting can be a great way to get management’s attention on projects that require support. If you provide this support and the project is brought under control, your investment will be less wasted.
Let’s find out more about RAG in Project Management because it’s a very useful visual way to communicate project status.

What is RAG? Project management.
What is a “Red” project? What should you do if your Red project is not being completed?

What is an “Amber” project? What should you do if your Amber project is?

What is a “Green” project?
How to use RAG statuses for project reporting
Simply ‘RAG it!
Is RAG reporting reliable
Managing senior stakeholders’ responses
Project management tools
FAQDo you need to share your RAG status with other stakeholders?

Next steps

What is RAG? Project management.
The acronym RAG stands for Red, Amber and Green. These colors form the traffic light colors coding scheme to categorize project status.
The status of a project’s RAG status will be either Red, Amber, or Green. These colors are shorthand for describing projects in trouble or going well.
The table below explains what colors mean.
BBlueProject closedRRedProject will likely deliver late/over budgetAAmberProject may have missed some targets, but overall budget is not at riskGGreenProject is on trackAs you see, this equates with the acronym BRAG. Some companies use RAG and drop the Blue. Some companies use RYG (Red Yellow Green), but that is harder to pronounce. Some companies use no colors at all. They prefer smiling faces, weather symbols, or other visual indicators that indicate if a project progresses well, is in trouble, or struggling a bit.
Different companies use different RAG status definitions behind colors. Your company’s interpretation might differ. Talk to your PMO.
What is a “Red” project?
A project that is ‘Red’ is one that is under threat for some reason. It could be running behind schedule, over budget, or have uncontrolled scope changes (or all three). Even if the work appears to be on the surface, there may be underlying problems. There might be more serious issues.
Or both, ‘Red projects’ need management attention beyond what you can offer them as project managers.
Red status is shorthand to indicate that the project is in trouble. Take this example:
There are some issues that need to be escalated. The project manager is not able to handle the issue or doesn’t have a plan. Senior management support is required.
There may be issues with the project scope or requirements that require approval. This could lead to significant extra work or costs.
There is a lot of project risk and no plan to address it.
The team is struggling to get the job done, and the project manager can’t fix this problem.
The completion date has been pushed back by more than four weeks/outside tolerance.
Budget is exceedingly overspent by more that 10%.

Your PMO should clearly define what “Red” means so that you can compare your project performance to those measures. If you cannot justify why your project is at Amber status, report it as Red.
My experience shows that most Red issues are related to the project schedule (work is behind schedule) or budget (work is costing more than expected).
Next: How to create project budgets
What should you do if your Red project is not approved?
Red is a good designation. It is a way to let management know that you are concerned and it is a way to gain stakeholder support.

Understanding RAG in Project Management
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