Expert Advice: How to Make the Right Go/No Go Decision

Every second your firm spends on the wrong pursuits is time you’re not focused on opportunities that actually make sense for your firm. Here's how to make the right go or no go decision when it matters.

Is your firm wasting time and money pursuing projects that…
  • You have no chance of winning?
  • Don’t make good business sense?
  • Don’t fit your firm’s strategic goals?

You’re not alone.

Tons of firms go after every single opportunity that comes their way, thinking that gives them the best chance of winning as many new projects as possible.

That’s simply not the case.

Every second your firm spends on the wrong pursuits — every phone call made, every email sent, every piece of marketing collateral produced — is time you’re not focused on opportunities that actually make sense for your firm.

And spending hours and hours chasing projects your firm ultimately loses will demoralize and burn out your marketing and business development staff.

Not exactly a recipe for success.

That’s why it’s crucial to develop an effective Go/No Go process. Consistently making the right Go/No Go decisions will empower your firm to focus on high-probability, high-profit projects.

[Free tool]: Make Go/No Go Decisions in Seconds

Below, industry experts share their advice for developing a Go/No Go decision-making process that supports firm-wide success.


5 Expert Tips to Improve Your Go/No Go Decisions

  1. Keep the Big Picture in Mind for Projects
  2. Understand Where Your Firm is Today and How You Plan to Grow
  3. Commit to the Process
  4. Only Pursue Opportunities that Inspire Passion
  5. Seek Outside Information


1. Keep the Big Picture in Mind for Projects

One thing many firms lack when creating a Go/No Go decision-making process is a strategic firmwide plan.

Without knowing your goals and how you define success, it’s impossible to know which projects are worth pursuing.

“You have a ‘Go/No Go’ process, and sometimes your senior folks actually follow it. But you lack a major tool that would make your ‘Go/No Go’ process truly efficient: a PLAN!

“The ‘Go/No Go’ process is designed to help you say ‘no’ when ‘no’ is the appropriate answer. The hard part is determining when ‘no’ is the appropriate answer. With a Strategic Plan, Marketing Plan and/or Business Plan, this determination is much easier.”

— Bernie Siben, CPSM, AEC marketing consultant


2. Understand Where Your Firm is Today and How You Plan to Grow

Go/No Go decision-making is about determining which projects you’re most likely to win and putting your firm’s effort into those opportunities.

But that’s only half the story.

It’s also important to develop a strategic plan for growth and view Go/No Go decisions based on where you see your firm several years down the line.

“The framework of a go/no-go tool must blend strategy and historical evidence. For instance, the firm must use criteria that helps define its success, coupled with a blend of factors that enable the firm’s strategic plan.

“For example, Brand X Construction’s ‘sweet spot’ is defined at $7 million in project revenue. This is an important characteristic to understand, as it helps create a picture of the ideal customer or project. Notice this does not say ‘average project size.’ It is important to conduct a thorough study of where a firm excels and where it does not.

“The strategic growth niches also help define categories that are worthwhile targets. Without them, the firm might acquiesce and simply engage in identical work. While it may be currently profitable, it may also be myopic and fail to include a balance of long-term strategy.”

— Gregg M. Schoppman, consultant at FMI

[Get the Guide]: Top 5 Ways to Win More Work with an AEC-Focused CRM


3. Commit to the Process

Your firm will never follow any process 100 percent of the time. And that’s okay.

There are certain circumstances you can never plan for. You need to respond to each situation appropriately, regardless of the rigid rules you’ve put in place.

But be careful. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking every opportunity deserves special consideration.

That’s just not true.

In the vast majority of cases, you should follow the strategic Go/No Go process you put in place to give your firm the greatest chance of success.

“Be wary of end runs around the go/no go process. Sometimes there are bona fide emergencies or other reasons to stray from the committee review process, but the odds of getting stuck with a losing, or expensive, project increase if the go/no go process requirements are too easily sidestepped.

“One example is that a business unit may delay asking for a ‘go’ decision, then claim it is too late for management to say ‘no go.’ The theory may be that commitments have been made to the subcontractors or JV partners, or that estimators have already done so much work and would be demoralized if the plug is pulled. Effective management should not allow this ‘end run’ tactic to be rewarded.”

— Tom Porter, JD, DBIA, EVP at Barton Malow Company


4. Only Pursue Opportunities that Inspire Passion

You can’t afford to think of every single Go/No Go decision solely in terms of numbers.

While metrics and data are crucial to success, your firm and your clients consist of people, and that means emotions and mental states play a role in every task and initiative.

Before making a final decision, find out how your staff feels about pursuing and working on the potential project.

Their excitement — or lack thereof — just might sway your choice.

“Are you ALL in it to win it? Mentally, we are wired to believe we can do anything and sometimes we can climb seemingly impossible mountains. The whole team must recognize the ‘fire in the belly’—the passion and inner drive to take action—when pursuing the win. If everyone from leadership to seller/doer, PM to marketing professional has the fire, then: GO. If even one person has reservations about getting to the top of the mountain, you will likely not get to the top: NO GO.”

— Frank Lippert, FSMPS, CPSM, partner at Go Strategies


5. Seek Outside Information

Even if you have the ability to access and analyze mountains of data about a potential opportunity, there’s likely certain information you can’t learn on your own.

Take some time to research what those outside of your firm have to say about the client you’re evaluating.

“Working with unappreciative clients, will sap your time and energy from working with great clients and designing top projects. You must research both the company and its leaders online and through speaking with colleagues, contractors, and furniture suppliers.”

— Richard N. Pollack, FAIA, FIIDA, managing principal at Pollack Consulting


Take an Objective Approach to Go/No Go Decisions

By developing and implementing an effective Go/No Go decision-making process, you’ll empower your staff to focus on the opportunities that make sense for your firm.

While your total pursuits will decrease, your hit rate will likely improve at a level that increases your total wins and/or profits.


Want actionable tactics that can drive results? Get the calculator below!

Go No Go Decisions_blog CTA

Download this 17-point, weighted-scoring tool to quickly and objectively determine which projects are worth pursuing.


If you liked this article, you might also enjoy: