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."
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.
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
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
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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. rbrenXAfxCJXYeicLyARxner@ChacjoHKNDkmntTSDPqaoCanyon.comContact me to discuss possibilities.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 23: Look Where You Aren't Looking
- Being blindsided by an adverse event could indicate the event's sudden, unexpected development. It can also indicate a failure to anticipate what could have been reasonably anticipated. How can we improve our ability to prepare for adverse events? Available here and by RSS on August 23.
- And on August 30: They Just Don't Understand
- When we cannot resolve an issue in open debate, we sometimes try to explain the obstinacy of others. The explanations we favor can tell us more about ourselves than they do about others. Available here and by RSS on August 30.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenambMoolbdTCWYfulner@ChaciVxXafMjweRjbDKtoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
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Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen
had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished.
As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business
analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read
more about this program. Here are some dates for this program:
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street,
Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13,
Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- CTCPA, 716 Brook Street,
Rocky Hill, CT 06067: September 20,
Full-day Workshop, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13, Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and
supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance.
Read more about this program. Here's a date for this
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin
Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19,
Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19, Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
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- 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.