Go/No-Go Decisions

Deciding Whether to Go Ahead

Is your best solution better than the status quo?

© iStockphoto/juanestey

Big decisions usually come after a considerable amount of research – discussions about the options available, about the criteria for choosing between them, and about the pros and cons of each possible choice.

These kinds of investigations can take months. After you and others have invested so much time in choosing the best option, the last thing you'll often want to do is reject the whole idea, and stay with things as they are now.

But is going ahead actually the best thing to do?

Or has the environment changed since you first started considering the change, so that your preferred option is no longer worth going ahead with? Is the cost of making the change greater than the benefit you would receive from it? Or has your organization's cash flow recently suffered, so that you now can't afford to make the change, even if it's valuable and useful?

When deciding whether to go ahead, you have to realize that the time and money you've already spent on the project are "sunk costs" – costs that cannot be recovered, and that you need to put behind you for decision-making purposes. You must evaluate whether or not you should go forward objectively, dispassionately, and on the basis of where you are now. It can take a lot of intellectual maturity to do this!

There are a number of tools that you can use to make good go/no-go decisions. This article helps you identify the right tool for the right situation.

Understanding Decision Making

Uncertainty is one of the largest obstacles you face when making a decision - after all, very few decisions are made with full knowledge of the consequences. With this in mind, our article on Decision Making Under Uncertainty   gives you some good approaches that you can use to manage it. Whatever approach you use, it's most important to have a methodical process for making the decision, and to use solid decision-making tools. With these in place, it's much easier to do what needs to be done each step of the way.

With go/no-go decisions, as with any kind of decision making, your steps begin with defining the problem, developing criteria for a successful solution, and generating alternatives. (You can learn more about these steps in our article on the Dynamics of Decision Making  .) From these potential alternatives, you can choose your best "go" option.

Tip:

Where you need to make your decisions in a team environment, read our article about Organizing Team Decision Making  . With teams, you need to pay as much attention to collaboration and participation among team members as you do to evaluating the options, if you're going to avoid the many potential problems that go with group decision-making.

Go versus No Go

For go/no-go decisions, you have to choose between two options: to go ahead, or to do nothing. To make good decisions, you need to use two groups of tools:

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