Podcast Released: Red is Good


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Join our hosts, Chris Murman, Jay Hrcsko, and Andy Cleff as they dive into the discussion around Red-Amber-Green (RAG) status reporting and the use of this information radiation. This topic came from Andy’s Coalition post “Why Red is Good”. The post has quite a few comments – which you are welcomed to join into.

The conversation covers traditional use of the RAG status, modern adaptations like the Spotify Health Check model and how the hosts are currently using RAG status. Andy Cleff dives into his current usage, starting all projects at Red as there will inevitably be the highest degree of uncertainty at the beginning of a project. Andy also shares commentary on this article about RAG status reporting in the US Military.

Unfortunately, we were unable to find a video of a ferret being introduced to a kindergarten resulting in chaos (sorry Jay), but here is the closest thing we have to satisfy the metaphor introduced towards the end of the show.

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Great podcast.

It was mentioned during the podcast about everyone understanding what the RAG even meant. Similar to the definition of ready, the point is to have a common list of criteria that everyone can use a word, and have a common understanding of what that means. This is a huge issue in many of the organizations I’ve worked with when helping them transition their common understanding of what things mean. So, kudos to pointing that out.

I think a good topic that was only briefly mentioned was the discussion of how the people using the RAG are incentivized within the company. If the status of the project reflects their bonus/compensation packages (or ultimate delivery date), they are more inclined to game the system in an attempt to obtain that gain. Perhaps redirecting their compensation evaluations on opportunities improved upon or mitigated rather than delivery would drive the correct incentivized behavior and promote the agile mindset of improvement vs done.


@Jonster1220. Thanks for the feedback. I think its a good question but for me the RAG status in nature doesn’t promote that level of thinking. In my experience most become immune to the colors due to how they are defined. You become immune to the red since its usually used for the wrong reasons. As a Scrum Team for me its about becoming predictable and creating a way to communicate challenges that are not able to be resolved with in the team as well as providing the enterprise visibility as to what is being delivered and not just team velocity. The RAG status in my experience is much more a symptom of a larger Problem that is rarely solved. I like to understand the purpose of a RAG status for the org, and then try and figure out other methods to provide what they think they are asking for and try and address the problem or problems instead of using a RAG status report to fix the symptom.


Great point @Jonster1220. We didn’t really talk incentives in the way you mentioned. We were trying to keep the convo to less than 45 minutes (only 1 minute over lol), so we didn’t cover all the areas we desired.

The topic of incentives was briefly touched on from a mental perspective though. The term “watermelon green” refers to a PM wanting to appear competent in front of peers by declaring they are green when they are really red. The other point was raised that some use “red” in an improper fashion to get attention when you desire it.

Which of course brings up the true motivation for the colors. Can we use them to have helpful conversation and exploration into an organizations issues or will it be a stick to hit someone with? Or a place to hide.

Have you seen better incentives used in reference to these metrics?


@chrismurman Unfortunately, I haven’t been a part of or seen an actual implementation of an incentivized model that didn’t involve delivery as the key attribute towards success for leadership. It would be an interesting topic to discuss the pre-existing leadership’s roles and incentives while looking at different styles/approaches to resolving that impediment towards a new mindset.

@Leanleff completely agree with your approach to RAG. For example, I would eliminate RAG for opportunity stories as backlog items for the leadership team that they continuously make transparent and work to resolve in a kanban like fashion. It would be a win win because they could self reflect on their own cycle time and lead time for their team’s way of working as a servant leader.

Who knows, maybe he teams can then call out the leadership team if they are “red” on their commitment and ask how they can help? :blush:


As a boss once told me, “Be honest with context”

Red/Yellow/Green can be used effectively if you understand the audience and the expectations for their meanings.

Much like devs wont necessarily communicate to the team that they are “red” on implementing features when doing TDD’s red/green/refactor pattern, it’s not necessarily helpful to report red or green at the beginning of a project when you just dont have enough data.


At the beginning of a project is “White” acceptable?

What is the stakeholders / management want a color at the outset, what do you use?


I like the idea of signalling tasks not yet in process with a colour other than the traffic lights. White does say, “Not even on the runway yet.”