By Nick Horney, Ph.D., Leadership Agility Practice Leader
The OODA LoopThe OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) is a model that was created by USAF Col. John Boyd. It was originally designed for Korean-era fighter pilots as a way to understand conflict and provide military leaders with a model or method for making decisions and assessing their impact. The execution of the decision making process may be viewed as cycling through the four distinctive but interdependent stages: 1) OBSERVATION, or absorbing information from the environment by all possible means; 2) ORIENTATION, or placing this information into a matrix of human understanding and experience; 3) DECISION, or selecting a subsequent course of action based upon the likelihood of either offensive achievement or defensive nullification; and 4) ACTION, or attempting to operationalize or carry out the previously conceived decision. Collectively, these stages have come to be known as an OODA loop. The OODA loop depends on tactical and strategic agility. We must not only move faster than our competitors; we must also think faster than them. A streamlined view of leadership, team or organizational agility in the information age is the combination of being focused, fast and flexible. To adapt and thrive with all of the VUCA disruptions in the marketplace (e.g., robotics, globalization, artificial intelligence, the Gig Economy, etc.) change readiness requires mental and physical agility in both planning and execution. In any competitive environment, the leader, team or organization that can consistently and effectively cycle through the OODA process faster – that is, can maintain a higher tempo of focused and flexible actions than others, gains an ever-increasing advantage with each cycle. With each iteration, the slower competitor falls further behind and becomes increasingly unable to cope with the continuously deteriorating situation.
The Agile Model®— Application of The OODA Loop in Decision MakingSpeed of decision making has become more critical for every organization in our turbulent environment. The Agile Model® has served as a multi-disciplinary framework used by organizations to implement leadership, team and organizational agility for over 16 years. The focus of this blog is on speed of decision making represented by “Initiating Action” which is one of the 5 key drivers of The Agile Model®.
OODA Loop Decision Making ToolsMany of the tools illustrated in this graphic (OODA LOOP DECISION MAKING) have been applied in process improvement and quality initiatives. It illustrates how applying these tools in a repeatable OODA Loop process can bring greater rigor and can enhance decision speed needed for Initiating Action. Cross-functional teams often meet without clearly defining how decisions will be made. Often, the result of these meetings is a frustrated team, concerns about how decisions will be made, poor future meeting attendance and participation and frustration by the executive sponsor who wanted to encourage cross-functional engagement and empowerment. The tools applied in this process are organized into the 4 key areas of the OODA Loop — Observe, Orient, Decide and Act:
- 1. OBSERVE — Describe the Problem
- 2a. ORIENT (a) — Identify Potential Causes
- 2b. ORIENT (b) — Collect, Organize and Analyze Existing Data
- 3a. DECIDE (a) — Compare Causes to the Facts/Collect Additional Data to Identify Root Cause(s)
- 3b. DECIDE (b) — Determine Correction Actions
- 4. ACT— Validate, Implement and Standardize Solution