In general, terms, go/no-go decision making is a process of passing or failing a proposition. Each proposition is assessed according to criteria that determine whether a project advances to the next stage. The outcome of the go/no-go decision making is to assess whether to go or not to go with a project, or perhaps proceed with caveats.
Understanding go/no-go decision making
Go/no-go decision making is traditionally associated with the NASA space program. After months or sometimes years of project advancement, the final decision on whether to launch a spaceship comes down to a simple yes or no decision.
In business, this form of decision making allows businesses to identify projects with a high probability of success. This is achieved by considering the project life cycle, where decisions attached to incremental stages determine whether a project continues.
However, go/no-go decision making is effective in any scenario that requires a formal check. This makes the process well suited to product and human resource management. It is important in navigating many corporate constraints relating to rules, regulations, policies, or acceptances of terms.
Although the name suggests a binary means of decision making, many interpretations incorporate three answers:
- Go – a project aspect can proceed.
- No-go – a project aspect cannot proceed. Reasons for a no-go determination should be recorded for future reference and deliberation.
- Go with caveats – a project aspect can proceed if certain caveats are reconciled within a set period of time.
A simple go/no-go decision-making process
With project team members in place, a business should first define project aspects to be evaluated. Then, each must be evaluated based on certain criteria and as objectively as possible.
To assist in objectivity, many project teams use a numbered scale for each of the three possible answers. For example, a “go” answer scores 10 points while a “no-go” scores zero. In the middle, “go-with-caveat” answers score anywhere from 1 to 9.
With a list of criteria for each project aspect identified and weighted:
- Assess the overall rating of each and compare the ratings given amongst each member of the team. If all criteria ratings for a project aspect match, then proceed with “go”. If all ratings could be matched subject to further discussion or conditions, choose “go with caveats”. If none are matched, do not proceed.
- When a decision is made to proceed, the group should determine the necessary actions to make each a reality. Who will perform the action and when will it be performed?
Go/no-go decision making best practices
To get the most out of go/no-go decision making, consider these tips:
- Do not lose sight of the bigger picture. Go/no-go decision making is only effective if a business has a clear vision. Without it, a business will have no understanding of whether its actions align with its goals. In other words, no understanding of when to choose “no-go” and end a project.
- Trust the process. Go/no-go decision making can be prone to bias or manipulation from individuals with vested interests. Others may believe that every project requires a customized approach, but this is simply untrue. Go/no-go decision making is suitable for the vast majority of project scenarios.
- Become less reliant on numbers. Data is an important measure of success, but decision making involves people with emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Ideally, staff should feel passionate enough about the project to see it through to completion. In other words, “no-go” decisions owing to lack of interest or passion should be respected.
- Encourage a collaborative approach. While managers invariably make the final decision, the third “go with caveats” decision option ensures that project team member perspectives are not dismissed out of hand. This creates an environment where all staff – regardless of rank – feel heard and respected.
- Go/no-go decision making allows businesses to separate opportunities into those that will be pursued and those that will not.
- During go/no-go decision making, three decisions can be made: go, no-go, and go with caveats. Each decision should be arrived at through group consensus without being influenced by vested interests.
- Go/no-go decision making places less emphasis on performance metrics to guide decisions. Instead, there is more reliance on passionate, engaged staff who are more likely to see meaningful projects through to completion.
Connected Decision-Making Frameworks