Path To Green

A Path To Green (PTG) is clear, crisp, and complete statement describing a team’s plan for how to get a project from yellow/red status to green. This post describes the concept and provides some tips on how to be excellent at articulating a PTG.

Organizations that routinely deliver great results hold individuals and teams accountable for delivering those results. Ensuring everyone is clear on the status of projects is key to this (e.g. is a project red, yellow, or green?). More importantly, teams need to have discipline around how they move projects that are a bit off the rails (yellow) or really off the rails (red) back on rails (green). A great “Path to Green” is a key element of this discipline.

None of this works without clarity around what the various status of projects mean. At SnapAV we use the following definitions:

  • GREEN : The Project is on track with risks that are well understood and mitigated. 
  • YELLOW : The Project has encountered some serious unknowns or blockers, but there is a clear Path to Green that should enable the project to hit the current date. 
  • RED : The Project has unknowns or blockers that either make it certain we will miss the date and/or there is not yet an agreed on Path to Green. 

A Path To Green should include:

  1. A clear identification of who (as in the name of a human being) is responsible for each action.
  2. Dates. Dates. Dates. For every action that will get the project back on track, there should be a date. It’s OK for a date to be a “date for a date”, but it’s NOT OK to not have dates.
  3. Clarity on what the criteria is for determining the project is back to green.
  4. If the project is Yellow and trending Red, a clear statement on the criteria (with dates) that will cause it to turn red. And a statement of what will then happen (e.g. “If we go Red we will have no choice but to change the due date”).

Examples

Path to Green:

  • Work with vendor to resolve issue.
  • Verify the problem in the field is fixed.

This is a poor example because

  1. There is no identification of WHO is responsible for each action.
  2. There are not dates that hold the WHO accountable
  3. There is no clarity on what the criteria will be that will result in the project being back on track.

Path to Green:

  1. Sally to get fix from vendor to Doug by noon, 04-Feb.
  2. Doug to deploy the fix to 10 beta sites by 05-Feb and report results no later than 12-Feb.
  3. If results are positive, Sally will update project to Status to Green on 12-Feb.
  4. If negative results come back before or on 12-Feb we will not have enough time for manufacturing and will have to slip the project launch date by at least two weeks to 01-Apr.

This is a good example because

  1. There is no ambiguity around WHO is doing the work and WHEN they will do it by.
  2. Clear criteria is provided for what getting back to Green means.
  3. Clear criteria is provided for what will happen if s*** continues to hit the fan.

Being diligent about project status and getting engineering leaders to think in terms of great “Paths To Green” is key to better execution in product organizations. What tips do you have around driving projects? Please comment below.

© Charlie Kindel. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment


  1. Great contribution and wise words. As a council I can comment that it is very important to choose the work team correctly, not only must they be talented, they must also be creative, responsible and disciplined, if everyone on the team is not, then the project manager must be a very patient person and he knew, to take the team on the right path, observing and identifying the individual qualities of each team member, to assign him the right task. My advice is that you do not choose the smartest team, choose the leader, the one who, although he does not have all the knowledge, if he can be heard with great attention by others, a leader will know what to do in each bump of the project, and if not He knows what to do to ask a person wiser than him.
    Thank you for contributing your knowledge Charlie.

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