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.

DefinitionA Go/No-Go Decision, also known as a Bid/No-Bid Decision, is a critical business process where an organization evaluates whether to pursue a specific opportunity, project, or endeavor. It involves a systematic assessment of the risks, benefits, and alignment with organizational goals before making a definitive choice to proceed (Go) or abstain (No-Go). This decision-making framework is commonly used in areas like project management, business development, and procurement to ensure that an organization invests its resources wisely and strategically. The Go/No-Go Decision aims to prevent the pursuit of endeavors that may lead to losses or conflicts with the organization’s objectives while focusing resources on promising opportunities. Understanding and effectively executing this process is vital for organizational success and resource optimization.
Key ConceptsOpportunity Evaluation: The core concept is the rigorous evaluation of an opportunity’s viability and alignment with organizational goals. – Risk Assessment: Assessing potential risks and uncertainties associated with the endeavor is fundamental. – Resource Allocation: Deciding whether to allocate resources, such as time, money, and personnel, to pursue the opportunity. – Strategic Alignment: Ensuring that the opportunity aligns with the organization’s strategic objectives and mission. – Decision Criteria: Establishing clear criteria to guide the decision-making process.
CharacteristicsSystematic Evaluation: The process involves a systematic and structured evaluation of various factors. – Decision Framework: It provides a clear framework for making decisions regarding resource allocation. – Data-Driven: The decision is typically data-driven, relying on factual information rather than gut feeling. – Involvement of Stakeholders: Key stakeholders often participate in the decision-making process. – Documentation: Decisions and the rationale behind them are documented for transparency and accountability.
ImplicationsResource Optimization: The Go/No-Go Decision helps optimize resource allocation by focusing on worthwhile opportunities. – Risk Mitigation: It mitigates the risk of pursuing ventures that may lead to losses or conflicts. – Alignment with Goals: Ensures that pursued opportunities align with organizational goals and strategies. – Transparency: Transparent decision-making builds trust among stakeholders. – Cost Savings: Avoiding unwise investments saves the organization resources.
AdvantagesStrategic Focus: The process enables organizations to maintain a strategic focus by pursuing aligned opportunities. – Resource Efficiency: Ensures efficient allocation of resources, preventing waste on unproductive endeavors. – Risk Management: Helps manage and mitigate risks associated with pursuing opportunities. – Accountability: Clear decision-making processes and documentation enhance accountability. – Improved Outcomes: Focusing on viable opportunities increases the likelihood of success.
DrawbacksDecision Delay: The process may introduce delays in pursuing opportunities. – Overly Conservative: An overly cautious approach can lead to missed opportunities. – Subjectivity: Despite structured criteria, subjective judgments can influence decisions. – Complexity: Evaluating complex opportunities can be challenging and time-consuming. – Resistance to Change: Stakeholders may resist No-Go decisions, particularly if they were invested in the opportunity.
ApplicationsProject Management: Project managers use Go/No-Go decisions to determine whether to proceed with a project. – Business Development: Organizations apply this framework to assess potential partnerships, acquisitions, or market entries. – Procurement: In procurement, organizations decide whether to bid on contracts or procure goods and services. – Investment Decisions: Investors use similar principles to evaluate investment opportunities. – Product Development: Decisions to develop new products or features are made using this process.
Use CasesProject Selection: A project manager evaluates whether to greenlight a new product development project based on market research, resource availability, and strategic alignment. – Bid/No-Bid Decision: A construction company assesses whether to bid on a major infrastructure project, considering factors like profitability, resources, and risk. – Mergers and Acquisitions: A corporation contemplates whether to pursue the acquisition of a competitor, weighing financial implications and strategic fit. – Procurement Decision: A government agency decides whether to invite bids for a public infrastructure project based on budget constraints and goals. – Investment Evaluation: An investor evaluates whether to invest in a startup by considering market potential, team, and financial projections.

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? 

Using a go/no-go decision-making matrix

Many tools exist to help teams think through a decision, but a decision-making matrix is perhaps best suited to the go/no-go analysis

Criteria (or project factors) identified in the previous section can be listed in the left-hand column of the matrix, with the rows across the top labeled as:

  • Go (positive).
  • No-Go (negative).
  • Options (neutral), and
  • Score.

Members of the team then complete the matrix to the best of their ability and may have to perform additional research on some factors.

Decision matrix example

Now, let’s imagine that a company is considering whether to introduce a new product to the market. The team first assembles the key stakeholders and then lists the following ten factors in the matrix:

  1. Is it easy to target potential customers?
  2. Does the product differ from others in the market?
  3. Is the potential product packaging effective in terms of logistics requirements and customer attractiveness?
  4. Are there sufficient funds to develop product prototypes and models?
  5. Is the manufacturer of the product willing or able to cover some start-up costs?
  6. Is the market size sufficiently large?
  7. Does the product deliver the benefits customers want?
  8. Do customers understand what benefits they can derive?
  9. Does the potential value of the product exceed the manufacturing cost by at least a factor of five?
  10. Can product support costs be covered?

For example, for question number two about whether the product differs from others in the market, the team may fill in the matrix in this way:

  • Go – the product offers two new features that no competitors offer.
  • No-Go – the product is not particularly innovative and can easily be replicated by another company.
  • Options – make the product more innovative or ensure the additional features are driven by the customer and not by the development team.
  • Score – 3.

Note that the project factor is typically scored on a scale of 1-5, with higher scores denoting “Go” decisions and lower scores for “No-go” decisions. The team then sums the scores for each project factor and uses a scale of its choice to determine whether to proceed.

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.

When is go/no go decision-making useful?

Note that not every question or decision requires a go/no-go analysis

Should the business replace a critically important sales manager after they move across the country to be nearer to family? Should the business proceed with an underfunded project that is outside its area of expertise?

The answers to these questions should be obvious, and it is these types of questions that do not require this analysis to be performed.

With that in mind, here are some of the situations where a go/no-go analysis may be useful:

  • A project involves multiple departments and/or consultation with external stakeholders. In this case, it is important to assess the project’s impact on relationships and resources.
  • A project can be tackled from numerous different directions and a decision to move forward cannot be made until each is explored.
  • The business does not have all the information it needs to make an informed decision. Here, the analysis itself serves as a means of researching and collating the necessary information.
  • Opinion is divided on whether the project should proceed. In other words, there are strong opinions or feelings on both sides of the argument, and
  • The project is associated with significant risks and/or opportunities that require careful and detailed analysis.

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.

Go/No-Go Decision Making Highlights:

  • Definition: Go/No-Go Decision Making is a process of evaluating propositions against predetermined criteria to determine whether a project should proceed, be rejected, or proceed with conditions.
  • Origin: Associated with the NASA space program and widely used in business to identify projects with higher chances of success.
  • Application: Effective for product and human resource management, project stages, and navigating corporate constraints.
  • Decision Outcomes:
    • Go: Project advances.
    • No-Go: Project rejected, reasons documented.
    • Go with Caveats: Project proceeds if specific conditions are met within a set timeframe.
  • Process:
    1. Define project aspects.
    2. Evaluate each aspect based on criteria using a scoring system.
    3. If all criteria ratings match, proceed with “go.” If subject to further discussion, choose “go with caveats.” If none match, do not proceed.
    4. Determine necessary actions and responsibilities if decision is to proceed.
  • Decision-Making Matrix: A matrix helps teams analyze factors against “Go,” “No-Go,” and “Options” with corresponding scores.
  • Example: Deciding whether to introduce a new product involves listing factors like market differentiation, funding availability, manufacturing support, etc., and assigning scores based on impact.
  • Best Practices:
    • Align decisions with a clear business vision.
    • Trust the process and avoid unnecessary customization.
    • Balance data-driven decisions with passion and commitment.
    • Foster a collaborative environment where team perspectives are valued.
  • Use Cases: Useful when projects involve multiple departments or stakeholders, when multiple directions are possible, when there’s insufficient information, when opinions are divided, or when risks/opportunities need thorough analysis.
  • Key Takeaway: Go/No-Go Decision Making separates viable opportunities from non-viable ones, encourages collaborative decision-making, values passion and commitment, and is most effective in scenarios where multiple factors influence the decision-making process.

Connected Decision-Making Frameworks


Simon’s satisficing strategy is a decision-making technique where the individual considers various solutions until they find an acceptable option. Satisficing is a portmanteau combining sufficing and satisfying and was created by psychologist Herbert A. Simon. He argued that many individuals make decisions with a satisfactory (and not optimal) solution. Satisfactory decisions are preferred because they achieve an acceptable result and avoid the resource-intensive search for something more optimal.

RAPID Framework

The RAPID framework is a tool used to help businesses make important decisions. The RAPID framework was developed by global consultancy firm Bain & Company, which noted that “high-quality decision making and strong performance go hand in hand.”

Foursquare Protocol

The Foursquare Protocol is an ethical decision-making model. The Foursquare Protocol helps businesses respond to challenging situations by making decisions according to a code of ethics. It can also be used to help individuals make decisions in the context of their own moral principles. It consists of four steps: gather the facts, understand previous decisions, assess the degree of similarity to past events, and assess yourself.

DACI Decision-Making

The DACI Decision-Making Framework was developed by software company Intuit in the 1980s. The DACI Decision-Making Framework assigns and then displays the responsibilities of the individual when making decision. DACI stands for driver, approver, contributor, and informed.

Lightning Decision Jam

The Lightning Decision Jam
The Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ) is a means of making fast decisions that provide quick direction. The Lightning Decision Jam was developed by design agency AJ&Smart in response to the inefficiency of business meetings. Borrowing ideas from the core principles of design sprints, AJ&Smart created the Lightning Decision Jam.

Multi-Criteria Analysis

The multi-criteria analysis provides a systematic approach for ranking adaptation options against multiple decision criteria. These criteria are weighted to reflect their importance relative to other criteria. A multi-criteria analysis (MCA) is a decision-making framework suited to solving problems with many alternative courses of action.

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

A 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.

Personal SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis is commonly used as a strategic planning tool in business. However, it is also well suited for personal use in addressing a specific goal or problem. A personal SWOT analysis helps individuals identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

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.

Comparable Company Analysis

A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company. To find comparables you can look at two key profiles: the business and financial profile. From the comparable company analysis it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A cost-benefit analysis is a process a business can use to analyze decisions according to the costs associated with making that decision. For a cost analysis to be effective it’s important to articulate the project in the simplest terms possible, identify the costs, determine the benefits of project implementation, assess the alternatives.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

SOAR Analysis

A SOAR analysis is a technique that helps businesses at a strategic planning level to: Focus on what they are doing right. Determine which skills could be enhanced. Understand the desires and motivations of their stakeholders.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

Pestel Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

DESTEP Analysis

A DESTEP analysis is a framework used by businesses to understand their external environment and the issues which may impact them. The DESTEP analysis is an extension of the popular PEST analysis created by Harvard Business School professor Francis J. Aguilar. The DESTEP analysis groups external factors into six categories: demographic, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological, and political.

Paired Comparison Analysis

A paired comparison analysis is used to rate or rank options where evaluation criteria are subjective by nature. The analysis is particularly useful when there is a lack of clear priorities or objective data to base decisions on. A paired comparison analysis evaluates a range of options by comparing them against each other.

Hickam’s Dictum

Hickam’s dictum is the counterargument to Occam’s razor. Whereas Occam’s razor is a heuristic that tends to narrow down decision-making to the simplest variables, Hickam’s dictum believes a situation must be tackled by looking at multiple variables.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Occam’s Broom

Occam’s broom was first proposed by South African microbiologist Sidney Brenner who proposed that inconvenient facts that do not fit into someone’s hypothesis or serve their agenda are swept aside or hidden. Occam’s broom is a principle stating that inconvenient facts are hidden or obscured to draw important conclusions or argue points.

Outcome Bias

Outcome bias describes a tendency to evaluate a decision based on its outcome and not on the process by which the decision was reached. In other words, the quality of a decision is only determined once the outcome is known. Outcome bias occurs when a decision is based on the outcome of previous events without regard for how those events developed.

Principle-Agent Problem

The theory behind the principle-agent problem was developed by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Jensen and economist and management professor William H. Meckling. The principle-agent problem describes a conflict in priorities between a person or group and the representative authorized to make decisions on their behalf.

TDODAR Decision Model

The TDODAR decision model helps an individual make good decisions in emergencies or any scenario with a high degree of uncertainty. TDODAR is an acronym of the six sequential steps that every practitioner must follow, comprising: time, diagnosis, options, decide, act/assign, review.

Mendelow Stakeholder Matrix

The Mendelow stakeholder matrix is a framework used to analyze stakeholder attitudes and expectations and their potential impact on business decisions.

Foursquare Protocol

The Foursquare Protocol is an ethical decision-making model. The Foursquare Protocol helps businesses respond to challenging situations by making decisions according to a code of ethics. It can also be used to help individuals make decisions in the context of their own moral principles. It consists of four steps: gather the facts, understand previous decisions, assess the degree of similarity to past events, and assess yourself.

Go/No-Go Decision Making

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.


The OODA loop was popularized by U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Colonel John Boyd to describe maneuver warfare during the Korean War. The OODA loop is a four-step approach to decision making where strategies must be adjusted quickly. Those four steps comprise observe, orient, decide, and act.

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

Main Guides:

About The Author

Scroll to Top