Last year, my family and I visited Cape Canaveral, hoping to see the SpaceX launch.

We arrived, got situated, and watched from afar as the mission leaders went through their final checklist…

… and at 30 seconds to launch, they scrubbed the mission.

As a project manager, I was fascinated by the clarity of their “Go-No-Go” criteria. Leaders had a set of parameters that they verified in the hours prior to the launch — and as the no-go parameters were triggered, the no-go decision became all but inevitable.

Any project or initiative can benefit from a similar set of go-no-go criteria.

Without these criteria, project momentum often takes over. The organization has invested so much time, money, and resources into the initiative that canceling or delaying the launch begins to seem impossible. 

But pushing forward when new systems are not fully tested can be disastrous. That’s why setting no-go criteria well in advance is critical. It makes it easier to make the right call under pressure. 

Get Clarity With a Readiness Dashboard

For our business applications and software launch projects, we create a Readiness Dashboard to help us make our Go-No-Go decisions. This helps our clients and project teams focus on what is important to have completed and validated prior to go-live, so we are not caught by last-minute surprise issues. 

As a group, we discuss what situations merit stopping the show versus what we can live with and address later. This helps us manage expectations with end-users and sponsors. 

We develop a custom set of readiness criteria for our project and use the RAG (red, amber, green) status indicator to communicate overall readiness. Amber and red colors on a readiness chart can motivate the team to address issues quickly to avoid a no-go decision.

The result is that we’re ready to pull the plug if the conditions aren’t right — and we know exactly what makes conditions “right.” But because we’re crystal clear on what needs to be in place to move forward, we’re better prepared for the launch and less likely to trigger our no-go criteria.

A Readiness Dashboard can also be helpful for defining “entry criteria” for important milestones along the way – for example, we use Readiness Dashboards for all of our test phases, to ensure that we are ready to conduct system testing from a people, process, and technology perspective. It helps to ensure that the team has clarity on everything that is required to start the activity and eliminate those last-minute issues that often disrupt progress and cause delays.

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Paul Dandurand
    November 3, 2020 11:10 pm

    This is interesting. It’s giving me new ideas on how to improve a project process. We use the Pie project management application and I could see creating a process box to contain tasks that define the go-no-go criteria. This box and its set of tasks could be placed in a couple phases prior to the go-live phase to help the team do some early leg work to be better prepared the decision process. No one wants to crash-study this exam.

    Secondly, Pie’s dashboard already has a project health status buttons green, yellow, and red. It would be easy to use this dashboard table view column for determining the go-no-go readiness. A directory could look at a portfolio of scheduled go-live projects and see at a glance which are ready and which are at risk.


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