How to drive dashboard engagement through rethinking RAG status markers

Does red still mean red anymore? So many of the dashboards we come across are red all over, and when you see that, it's time to change. 

Adding a Red Amber Green status to your key metrics is a long-established way to get managers to pay attention where it matters. What's key though is that the levels that trigger these colours are kept relevant over time.

After all, no manager likes a red against their name, so you'd think that would be reason enough to engage in the metrics. This is rarely the case. We found that reports with high a proportion of their metrics at red status were less likely to be actioned by their audiences. Why? Because there's less incentive to take action if your figures are not standing out on the report. 

I hear you cry 'but the figures ARE really bad, should I paint them an even worse colour?'. We would argue to take a step back, what your audience needs to see on red items is progress rather than to get figures being below a far-off unattainable level. 

For example, a recent client had over 1000 aged issues on a report tracking usage quality of a system, the metric allowed for 0 before turning red. They found that the figure was getting worse and worse each week. 

We changed the metric to report on the number of items cleared each week instead, with green for a significant reduction and red for little or no progress, and soon audience engagement was rising and an element of competitiveness emerged between managers trying to get their figures down. 

Do your metrics paint a true colour of your business? Does red really mean red, or has it lost meaning? Regularly rethink the way you display status colours on reports to drive engagement and you'll see great improvements in your business performance.