Watermelon Status: Green on the Outside, Red on the Inside

by October 3, 2018

I attended the Agile 2018 conference back in August where I learned of the term “Watermelon Status” for the first time. Watermelon Status… sounds delicious, right? What could possibly be wrong with anything resembling this rotund summer fruit?

Can you imagine being the first person to discover a watermelon? Picture this: you stumble upon a lush patch of green-striped fruit, intertwined together with green vines and leaves. Curiosity strikes, and to your surprise, after a quick swing of your machete reveals a vibrant, red flesh that is both edible and delicious! Similar to the “don’t judge a book by its cover” analogy, it is clear that not everything is what it appears to be at the outsider’s first glance.

Now picture this: it’s a Tuesday morning in the office and your scrum team gathers for daily standup. You go around the horn sharing “This is what I did yesterday…, this is what I will do today…, this is what is blocking my progress…” How many times have we stated that we have “no blocks… no blocks…. no blocks…” even if we did, but just didn’t want to reveal publicly to the team? Or because we didn’t properly prepare our daily update to succinctly identify the things that were hindering our progress? Often times when we are consumed in a cycle of routine, we develop decision fatigue, where we tend to follow the path of least resistance.

It’s all green, green, green… until it’s red

When we practice watermelon status, we delude ourselves and others into thinking that the statuses of our work are “green” or “on track”, when in reality it is not. Practicing watermelon status can result poorly at sprint reviews when the promised deliverables are incomplete or unsatisfactory, and teams must now face the reality of issues that have amassed over the past sprint.

Watermelon statuses can also have a greater impact on the organization when rolled up to the program or portfolio level. When executive reports depict an inaccurate representation of the timeline, quality and/or quantity of work, the business will be steered with inaccuracy. And when a stakeholder questions or decides to dig deeper into the resounding green statuses, holes, inconsistencies or errors will surface, revealing a bright red watermelon—seeds and all.

When work statuses are not accurately portrayed, updated and communicated on a regular basis, not only do we put ourselves and our team at risk for missing deadlines, but we also inhibit our organization’s ability to reach key objectives or deliver on customer promises.

More transparency, please!Snapshot of features showing watermelon status - that is, what is red and what is green.

The truth is, we don’t live in a green-light, impediment-free world. With market shifts, resource constraints and evolving customer requirements, it is perfectly normal to fall behind schedule or encounter tricky hinderances every once in a while. Agile software—specifically features such as Rally Release Tracking help teams gain visibility into the true status of their work, and also help provide transparency to the program and portfolio level stakeholders. Release Tracking provides a visual view if projects at the feature level are on track to completion, based on planned start/end date, and the number of story points accepted within these features.

Seeing the color red in status reports is usually just a warning, and not the end-all be-all, so long as it is checked and addressed quickly and often. If we heed these warnings, identify the issues and take appropriate actions in a timely manner, the easier it will be to steer projects back on track.

Learn more about the Release Tracking feature in Rally.

About the author:

Caitlin Lam

Caitlin Lam is a product marketer who strives to break down tech concepts and transform them into storytelling experiences. Originally hailing from the northeast, Caitlin graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in Communication and Studio Art. An avid “Black Mirror” fanatic, Caitlin likes to explore how technology influences human behaviors and interactions.

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