The Watermelon Status Report

Have you ever looked at a status report that was all green and said “There’s no way in hell that’s right!”?  Do you share resources across multiple projects and while you’re always yellow or red because you can’t get their time, someone else is green even though they’re not getting the time either?  As you question a project manager reporting green, do you slowly (or quickly) uncover there’s actually issues?  You, my friend, are experiencing a Watermelon Status Report!

I was introduced to the Watermelon Status Report concept by a peer.  Most watermelons on the outside are green.  But, start cutting them open and digging in, you’ll find a multitude of colors.  Sometimes cutting them open is easy.  Other times you need to push.  But chances are, you’ll find another color underneath.

About a year ago I had someone outside of my project group providing updates on a R&D effort.  Every week they were green and despite questions, the person said they were 100% good on schedule.  Then one day a milestone was missed but the status was still green.  Even though the prior week I was told they were “on track” to be done, it obviously wasn’t.  When I said we had to change the status to a red, the answer I received was “Leave it green.  We may be able to catch up.”

“We may be able to catch up” means it probably won’t happen but we’ll give you lip service that we’ll try.  I promised this person I wouldn’t get mad, but instead applaud the honesty, admitting there were issues, and commit to helping resolve them.  Eventually this person was more honest about changing their status when they hit bumps in the road.

Next time you see an all-green status report, cut into it a little bit.  Maybe you’ll find it’s a watermelon after all.  And who knows, maybe it truly is green all the way through!


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