Watermelon Status Reporting!!!

Well, I was equally curious when reading this word for the first time. When I learned more, I could quickly relate several instances of my professional career to this word.

“Watermelon status reporting” describes the phenomenon where the RAG status of the project appears to be green from the outside, but if you dig deep into it, it’s actually RED right through and has serious issues. Normally, it is done to disguise actual status to avoid any scrutiny by stakeholders or to ensure that project continues. Some PMs consider Project performance as personal performance and hence try to hide the real status.

There are stakeholders who prefer this, they don’t want a PM to report “Red” because then they would have to dig deeper, which might lead to looking at their own flaws. Some will say that they will correlate the data between slides to find the veracity of the content so it’s okay, even if someone gives a watermelon report. Some will highlight that it can be also cultural psychology to do this kind of false reporting.

Some leaders will mention that one has to guide his team to not give out watermelon status. However, giving a transparent status report is really tough. All of this takes courage to challenge the status quo and a bigger mindset change. In reality, the performance of the project makes or breaks the career of the PMs. Has anyone got a “meeting expectations” rating or above when his/her project is in “Red”? Hope this justifies the need for watermelon status reporting.

Such false reporting happens for several reasons. Few of them being,

  • PM does not want to admit that things are not going the way, it should be
  • Such a project has a risk of being canceled
  • In some cases, strings are pulled from higher-ups to not portray it as RED and even
  • Sometimes, even status is actually not updated or PM is a novice

Have you observed in your projects? What are your views?


Biren Parekh
Vice President Intellect Design