Something to BRAG About

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If you are old enough, some of you will remember a TV commercial from the 1980s in which an actor said, “I’m not a doctor, although I play one on TV…”

I want to preface this column by saying that I am not a project manager, nor have I played one on TV. But I have spent a lot of time working closely with project managers, and have immense respect for the profession. More importantly, I have learned a lot from them. Both their mindsets and processes have rubbed off on me. And, as it happens, both of those things come in handy on a regular basis, both personally and professionally.

One of my regular aphorisms is “you don’t know what you don’t know,” and I enjoy helping people go from not knowing to knowing. Knowledge is wealth that needs to be shared.

With that in mind, I want to talk about the BRAG process in project management. It’s not universally implemented, and I think that’s a shame.

BRAG is a method of color coding entries on your status reports or Gantt chart (or whatever chart you’re using) to quickly identify areas of concern. BRAG comes in handy when briefing both team members and higher management, drawing attention to instances and phases that need more attention and resources.

The acronym BRAG is easy to remember:

  • B for Blue = completed
  • R for Red = tracking as likely to be late/over budget
  • A for Amber = has some challenges but not yet Red
  • G for Green = on track

As you can see, it’s a very easy heuristic to employ. It makes it simple to identify the progress of instances and phases, and the overall status of the project.

Some training courses teach this as RAG rather than BRAG, but that’s more semantic than anything else. One way to remember this is: If you don’t give your project manager a reason to BRAG about you, they’ll RAG on you.

So what does it all mean?

Blue is self-explanatory: done. Finished. Closed off.

Green is easy: it’s what you want. Everything is on track, with no problems.

An amber status has more nuance. The project manager and the team have identified areas of concern: delays, increased costs, technical hurdles or anything else that is affecting the process. It’s currently still expected to be completed on time and on budget, but it’s more challenging than expected. Project managers and senior managers may need to decide to allocate more resources, and what would be best to get that phase back on track and a healthy green color.

Red is self-explanatory but not easy. Things have gotten out of control. The project might be behind schedule, over budget, major technical hurdles or some combination of all three plus more.

Never mind how it got there, there’s time for that in a post-mortem analysis. The immediate need is to identify the problem and decide on a solution. Whether the solution is additional resources or something else, a red scenario requires escalating to senior management and a deeper analysis of the nature of the challenge. There is always a solution, the hard part is often either finding it or implementing it.

Implementing BRAG into your own project management process is straightforward, and it is a worthwhile visual tool for monitoring the status of your projects.