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Traffic light system: BRAG status

Does your team know what you do? Mine didn’t.

And they weren’t sure how to ask me what I was up to, either.

Sure, my manager knew what progress I made each week because she and I had a 1:1. But my team? I hadn’t been sharing my management challenges with them because I wasn’t sure where to start. All of the things I worked on either seemed too sensitive (personnel decisions, re-orging) or too boring (revamping our boilerplate job descriptions) to be worth sharing.

I was wrong. What was standard and “the usual” to me, was interesting and different to my team. Plus, they wanted insight into what I was focused on because it helped them understand where their work fit into the bigger picture of our business.

With that need in mind, I started a lightweight method for reporting my work to my team and asking them to share their upcoming work with me. It’s six months later and I’ve come to appreciate our BRAG status as a quick way to keep in touch across the team and keep an eye on priorities, which makes all of us more productive.

What is a BRAG status?

BRAG status is a traffic light system – it’s one way to communicate project health with color-coding:

  • B is for Blue: The project is complete and handed over to another group. We use this rarely because things that are done are no longer a priority.
  • R is for Red: The project is stopped or in immediate danger with no obvious fix.
  • A is for Amber: There are issues that may slow down the project.
  • G is for Green: The project is on track.

We share this status in an email chain that starts on Monday mornings. Anyone on the team can kick-off the chain. When I reply, I include my top two or three priorities, the status of that work, and a link to more info. That link is important!

Sample BRAG status

This week in Medical Imaging UX – Feb 3-7, 2020

1:1’s – Bring your Challenges + Goals follow-up. You’ve had time to think about your goals and how I can support you in those goals, so let’s discuss them in our 1:1.

Crits – UXR: Xiomara getting feedback on the Project M research plan, UXD: Rafael presenting Project V

Studio – Elevator pitches. Question of the week: Would you rather travel back in time to meet your ancestors or to the future to meet your descendants?

Onboarding New UXers – Green
What’s up: We have three new people starting next week!
What worries me: I didn’t check to see if our new friends are allergic to dogs, so I sent them an email this morning and I hope they’ll be okay. (update: they are ok with dogs)
Link: go/howtomanage-onboarding for general onboarding guide

Project I – Amber
What’s up: Meeting tomorrow with antonymendez@, the 20%er who’s done some research on Project I deployments
What worries me: We have an ambitious OKR for the project and I want to move research from a 20% project to full-time support. I’ll highlight this in my 1:1 with our VP of Product tomorrow and during our team session.
Link: go/project-i

Perf prep – Green
What’s up: Working with janevillanueva@, petrasolano@, and rogelio@ to set up Perf clinics for Health UXers. RSVPing to calibration sessions, promo committees, etc.
What worries me: I’m trying not to tell people what to do even though I want us to just get all of this stuff scheduled and done. (just be chill, self. let other people lead.)
Link: go/howtomanage-perf

Limitations

There are a few major limitations to Monday BRAG statuses: it’s a list of priorities, not a list of what was completed this week, it’s an incomplete look at a given project, and it’ll get less relevant to individual team members as your team grows.

Priorities aren’t the same as reporting. One of the core abilities that my team is rated on is there ability to identify work to be done and prioritize their work across projects they may be interested in. This means I’m interested in how my team prioritizes and I’m watching for things they might think are priorities, but should be downgraded. The problem with getting priorities at the beginning of the week is that you don’t have an indication that they were complete.

UX team BRAG status is an incomplete picture. I’m a UX manager with a team that works across several products. I rely on BRAG status to give my insight into my team’s priorities. What it doesn’t provide is overall insight into a project. If you’re overseeing a complete project (you’re an engineering lead, a product manager, or a project manager) consider using a BRAG status spreadsheet or an app like Monday.com.

BRAG status narratives work best in small teams. Once your team grows beyond 10-12 people, you might end up overwhelmed with emails from your team. If you’re managing a large team or a team made of smaller teams, consider doing a small-team BRAG status + large team reporting via a spreadsheet or online tool.

Email template for getting your team started with BRAG status

Copy/paste this template into your Monday-morning email to get your team started.


Subject: This week in [Team name], MM DD-DD, YYYY

Hi team!

This week I’m kicking off a new way for us to share our priorities. Each week we’ll let each other know the top 2-3 things we’re working on, the status of that work, what worries us (risks or potential issues), plus a link to the work. I’ll get us started this week, with these statuses in mind:

  • RedProject is off-track – we are not moving forward (why? do you need help?)
  • AmberProject is at risk, but we are working on it (note what you’re doing to fix it)
  • GreenProject is on track, looking good! (what’s next?)
  • BlueWe’re ahead of schedule, expectations, etc!

1:1’s – [List any themes or reminders for your 1:1’s this week]

Crit/Studio – [Note prep for team meetings and critique sessions]

[Your name]’s priorities this week

[#1 Priority] – Blue/Green/Amber/Red
What’s up: [Describe what you’re doing this week]
What worries me: [Any concerns? Get them out here]
Link: [Be sure to include a link! Model this for your reports]

[#2 Priority] – Blue/Green/Amber/Red`
What’s up: [Describe what you’re doing this week]
What worries me: [Any concerns? Get them out here]
Link: [Be sure to include a link! Model this for your reports]

[#3 Priority] – Blue/Green/Amber/Red
What’s up: [Describe what you’re doing this week]
What worries me: [Any concerns? Get them out here]
Link: [Be sure to include a link! Model this for your reports]


By Abi Jones

Abi Jones is the UX Manager for Imaging & Diagnostics in Google Health. She leads an interdisciplinary team of researchers and designers focused on using artificial intelligence to assist in diagnosing cancer and preventing blindness.

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