Go/No-Go Decision Making And How To Use It In Business

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:

  1. Go – a project aspect can proceed.
  2. No-go – a project aspect cannot proceed. Reasons for a no-go determination should be recorded for future reference and deliberation.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Key takeaways

  • 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

Cynefin Framework

The Cynefin Framework gives context to decision making and problem-solving by providing context and guiding an appropriate response. The five domains of the Cynefin Framework comprise obvious, complicated, complex, chaotic domains and disorder if a domain has not been determined at all.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

Pareto Analysis

The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.

Failure Mode And Effects Analysis

A failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a structured approach to identifying design failures in a product or process. Developed in the 1950s, the failure mode and effects analysis is one the earliest methodologies of its kind. It enables organizations to anticipate a range of potential failures during the design stage.

Blindspot Analysis

A Blindspot Analysis is a means of unearthing incorrect or outdated assumptions that can harm decision making in an organization. The term “blindspot analysis” was first coined by American economist Michael Porter. Porter argued that in business, outdated ideas or strategies had the potential to stifle modern ideas and prevent them from succeeding. Furthermore, decisions a business thought were made with care caused projects to fail because major factors had not been duly considered.

Read Next: Biases, Decision-Making, Bounded Rationality.

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