“Watermelon Reporting” by Paul Marshall


As we head towards the end of this short month – wasn’t it only Christmas a few a days ago? Sorry, I digress – it’s time to produce our monthly summarised project status reports that will feed into our Programme Management Offices (PMOs).

Depending on my specific consultancy role I’m either on the ‘PMO side’ or the ‘Project Manager side’. Today, in my Project Manager role I have just written my monthly progress reports and it got me thinking of a phrase I came across a few months ago “Watermelon Reporting” and thought it was time to share some of my views…

It is self-explanatory – describing project status reports that report an overall Green RAG status when in reality if one was to dig a little deeper (into the resourcing, risks, issue etc.) the hardened outside would turn into a softer Red colour – the flesh. Not sure where Amber fits into the mix but you get the idea!

Why would a Project Manager report in this ‘Watermelon’ fashion? It doesn’t make sense does it? Well, for an external Project Manager it may make some sense…

  • No-one naturally wants to report bad news upward – especially the Project Manager who is meant to be in control and delivering a successful outcome
  • A cancelled project means no requirement for a Project Manager
  • Pressure from the Project Sponsor to show Risks and Issues as Green or Amber, because ‘we’ll have the opportunity to turn around problems before the next reporting period’ – again the urge is ‘not’ to report bad news, although this time perhaps with senior peers

Why not tell the truth? We do.

If there are Red ‘topics’ it is important that these are raised and not hidden by anyone in an organisation. If problems are not highlighted, understood and dealt with at the appropriate level within an organisation then a Project has very little chance of success in my opinion. Reporting ‘Red’ should not be seen as the fault of the Project Manager – actually, in my view these Project Managers should be recognised as doing their job effectively so others can do theirs and support the Project by rectifying these ‘topics’ at the earliest opportunity, saving time and money.

If a Project has to be cancelled, I say cancel it, before a floundering Project realises little or no benefit at a considerable cost. It’s these types of Project Managers that a PMO should want managing their projects, monitoring progress and reporting effectively.

Delivering this good or bad news (the truth) requires excellent stakeholder relationship management and must be developed at the start of any project.

Maybe at some time in your career you’ve seen these types of behaviours? If you have any PMO advisory or Programme/Project Management requirements why not contact Prosperity 24.7 as we’d love to help.

Paul Marshall is a highly experienced PM professional who has run numerous projects within a diverse range of industries, and can bring valuable experience to make your project a success. Paul is also a PMO guru, championing effective change and governance. 

Give us a call or e-mail to discuss how we at Prosperity 24.7 can help manage your projects +44 (0) 1534 877247 or  enquiries@prosperity247.com

Even if you already have experienced project managers in your organisation, having a dedicated consultant to manage your key programmes/projects could be exactly what you need to revitalise and energise your delivery programme.