In the past decade or two, a model of decision-making originally developed for aerial combat has found application in the business world. It's called OODA, which is an acronym for its four main elements: Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. In the model, when people make decisions, they move around a loop. They first observe the situation. Then they orient themselves to it, analyzing its essential features. Next, they decide what to do. Finally, they act, and the cycle repeats.
The model was developed by Colonel John Boyd, who served in the US Army Air Corps and later in the US Air Force as a fighter pilot and military strategist. He flew a short tour as a wingman in the Korean War, though he never fired his guns or claimed a kill. After the war, as an instructor at the US Air Force Weapons School, he headed the Academic Section and wrote the school's tactics manual. He subsequently developed the OODA model. In the first Gulf War, he was very influential in the design of the attack on Iraq and the invasion of Kuwait.
Here is Boyd's OODA model in brief:
- Observe: Collect data by means of the senses
- We sense the environment using whatever means and sensors are available. Speed, accuracy and focus are essential. Example: A corporation's senior management team learns of a hostile takeover attempt by a private equity firm.
- Orient: Analyze and synthesize the data to form your current mental perspective
- Orientation is the synthesis of images, views, and impressions of the world as we understand it, influenced by experience, tradition, and the evolving situation. Example: Senior management learns whatever it can about the private equity firm, the structure of the offer, and the defenses available.
- Decide: Determine a course of action based on your current perspective
- Given our understanding of the environment, we create a set of possible responses and select one. Example: Senior management decides to approach a competitor about a merger or acquisition.
- Act: Implement your decisions
- The final step of the loop is carrying out the decision. Execution might fail, but whether it succeeds or fails, we return to the beginning of the loop for the next cycle. Example: The corporation and its competitor agree to merge, and make a public announcement to that effect.
Beyond itsBeyond its application to combat,
OODA is invaluable in decision-making
for all rapidly changing situations application to combat, OODA is invaluable in decision-making for all rapidly changing situations, such as marketing, sports, emergency management, finance, public relations, national politics, and workplace politics.
In rapidly changing situations, success depends on cycling through your OODA Loop rapidly enough. In situations that involve one or more opponents, success depends on cycling through your own OODA Loop more rapidly than your opponents cycle through theirs.
When your opponent — or the situation — changes too fast for you to cycle through your OODA Loop, you can't keep up, and failure almost certainly follows. When you can cycle through your OODA Loop more rapidly than your opponents can cycle through theirs, you can seize and hold the initiative, and we say that you're "inside your opponent's OODA Loop."
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
For more about Col. John Boyd, read the biography, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, by Robert Coram. Order from Amazon.com. Col. Boyd's contributions to planning the first Gulf War are especially fascinating.
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrengKRCEcfyvGFqUxmuner@ChacRxzKjBkxQmCQIrqGoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Stonewalling: I
- Stonewalling is a tactic of obstruction used by those who wish to stall the forward progress of some
effort. Whether the effort is a rival project, an investigation, or just the work of a colleague, the
stonewaller hopes to gain advantage. What can you do about stonewalling?
- Stalking the Elephant in the Room: II
- When everyone is thinking something that no one dares discuss, we say that there is "an elephant
in the room." Free-ranging elephants are expensive and dangerous to both the organization and its
people. Here's Part II of a catalog of indicators that elephants are about.
- That Was a Yes-or-No Question: I
- In tense situations, one person might question another. As the respondent replies, the questioner interjects,
"That was a yes-or-no question." The intent is to trap the respondent. How does this work,
and how can the respondent escape the trap?
- Yet More Obstacles to Finding the Reasons Why
- Part III of our catalog of obstacles encountered in retrospectives, when we try to uncover why we succeeded
— or failed.
- Congruent Decision-Making: II
- Decision-makers who rely on incomplete or biased information are more likely to make decisions that
don't fit the reality of their organizations. Here's Part II of a framework for making decisions that fit.
Although the OODA Model model was originally developed by Col. John Boyd for applications in aerial combat, it has proved powerful and general enough to have other military applications. Indeed, it is truly useful in any contention-driven situation, including marketing, organizational politics, and natural disasters. My program, "Managing in Fluid Environments," explores how to apply this model in situations where changes come along at such a rapid rate that the next change comes along before we reach the "New Status Quo" of the changes we're already dealing with. More about this program.
My program, "Changing How We Change: The Essence of Agility," focuses more intently on applications of the OODA model in a wide variety of situations at work, from the perspective of organizational agility. This point of view is especially valuable to people in organizations that use agile product development processes. By applying the OODA Model, the Satir Change Model, and more recent developments from group psychology, we can substantially enhance an organization's ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and to transform itself to more competitive stances. More about this program.
Are you planning an offsite or retreat for your organization? Or a conference for your professional society? My programs are fresh, original, and loaded with concrete tips that make an immediate difference. rbrencdLyMxBviwMrUGkfner@ChacCokeCaHIhtMeoDhpoCanyon.comContact me to discuss possibilities.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 29: Newtonian Blind Alleys: II
- Some of our decisions don't turn out well. The nature of our errors does vary, but a common class of errors is due to applying concepts from physics originated by Isaac Newton. One of these is the concept of spectrum. Available here and by RSS on May 29.
- And on June 5: I Could Be Wrong About That
- Before we make joint decisions at work, we usually debate the options. We come together to share views, and then a debate ensues. Some of these debates turn out well, but too many do not. Allowing for the fact that "I could be wrong" improves outcomes. Available here and by RSS on June 5.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenEvjXenOyjNjwZfhHner@ChacGpfNtlhMHETvEjhOoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.