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It's Not Easy Being Green

Stoplight_green So far, we've covered the reasons for using a color code system of red-yellow-green for reporting status.  We've talked about what constitutes a project in red or yellow status.  Now it's time for the impossible... the unattainable... the unthinkable... the only-in-your-wildest-fantasies-not-including-the-entire-stadium-made-of-chocolate-dream:  a project in green status.

OK, it's really not that hard to achieve green status, but given the multitude of things that can go wrong on a project, it's also not easy to achieve green status either.  And it really takes very little to veer a project away from being green.  For those who are curious about how to achieve Project Utopia...


  • Have the requirements been fully defined and converted into workable tasks at the appropriate level of detail?
  • Is scope being managed (complete with a solid change management plan)?
  • Are quality checks and signoffs integrated throughout the plan?
  • Is rework virtually non-existent?


  • Is the team following a baselined project plan?
  • Have the critical path and major milestones been identified, and is the project team managing project operations with them in mind?
  • Are tasks and activities on schedule with virtually no slippage?


  • Has the project budget been defined and baselined?
  • Are funds and resources available when needed to adequately keep the project moving forward?
  • Are there virtually no cost overruns?

Other Factors

  • Is your team fully functional with few cultural or political impacts?
  • Is there strong, visible sponsorship?
  • Is there an operational risk management plan in place?
  • Is communication predictable, usable, and ongoing?

Obtaining status green should not be that difficult, if you have done due diligence in the Initiation and Planning phases to ensure the project starts well.

Before we leave this quick-and-dirty tour through the project color spectrum, I have a couple of questions that generate good old-fashioned debate in project circles.  I honestly am curious what you think:

  1. If any element of your project status is red, should the entire project be placed in red status, or is yellow good enough to express the color?
  2. Should any project be allowed to be green during the planning phase, given that no baselined project plan is in place?  (On this one, I think I'm the lone voice crying in the wilderness.  My take is that a project must earn green status by completing the planning phase.  Allowing a project to be green during planning does nothing to motivate a team to complete their project plan baseline.)
  3. Who owns the decision to set and to change a project's color?  Is the project manager or the project sponsor ultimately accountable for determining this?

Your views?


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