The OODA Loop – A tool for an Effective Decision Making

Do you know John Richard Boyd? He was a fighter pilot in US Air Force. He is famous for his strategic theories and is known to change the art of war. The concept of OODA Loop basically is about creating situations where an early and appropriate decision can be made. The process of decision-making must be quickly evolved by completing the OODA Loop. Being a fighter pilot himself, he was fully aware that the success of a combat operation depends upon the fast decision and the first strike. The concept is valid for decisions made by an individual or an entity. Below we check in detail what the OODA loop actually is and how its components matter the most. 

The OODA Loop

The word OODA is an abbreviation of Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. These are the four stages of decision-making equally valid for an individual or an organization. The four stages make a loop through which a decision-maker has to pass through. 

Observe

We live in a volatile world. Things keep on changing all the time. The observation is nothing but an act of keeping oneself aware of happenings around him. Observation is the process of collecting information about your surroundings. The data collected by being watchful about your environment is your source for arriving at a decision. A fighter pilot is critically exposed to make quick decisions. But things are different in organizations and businesses. They are never in a hurry. They have sufficient time to carefully study the information and take time to decide. 

Orient

A pilot is concerned to concentrate on the horizon to trace the location of the enemy in the air. The business, however, can afford the luxury of going slow to study facts, analyzing the situation, and making a decision based on multiple other factors. The businesses have their main concerns about their short- and long-term goals. They, therefore, need to move slowly and carefully through this stage to arrive at the most accurate decision in the given circumstances. 

Decide

Now you have collected the data and analyzed its validity. It is time to decide about what you have observed and how you found it valid and relevant. This decision-making stage warrants the rationale approach to exercise. Any confusion and delaying mentality can be fatal for the individual or organization. The loop was conceived by the fighter pilot who can never wait for a longer time to decide. The same is true for organizations.

Act

It is the last and fourth stage where a decision needs to be implemented. The situation may vary where sometimes a partial implementation is required and sometimes it needs to be fully acted upon. The success and failure depend upon the accuracy of the process at all four stages. In teams and an additional factor is a commitment that matters the most. 

Repetition

The outcome of each decision or action works as a learning for the succeeding process. It is actually an enhanced database for future decisions. Boyd’s lessons for his recruits could be around the success of an attack. The business leader can take it as an opportunity to redefine their pricing strategies, customer services, marketing drives, and business goals. 

Fastening of Loop

Boyd was a fighter pilot known for accelerated zero loss dogfights and was known as Forty-Second Boyd. He mastered the concept of OODA that he introduced. Boyd sharpened his skills to fasten the loop. He fully realized that moving quickly through the loop, by observing, orienting, deciding, and acting, only can earn an advantage over the enemy. The enemy in the air can prove fatal if there is any undue delay in closing the loop. 

A sharply fastened loop is a symbol of success in completing the first process within the shortest time and heading for the next observance while the opponent is still passing through the stages of the first loop. A tighter decision-making loop is a way forward towards success over the lazy dog in a dogfight. It is equally valid in the business environment and in any leadership role. 

Fast completing that OODA defined stages and improve your decision-making process even if you have never been in military training or a war situation. Learning lesson from combat situations is not difficult for business executives. You only need to train your reflexes to sharply respond to that situation you are in.

  • Umar Hayat
  • The author has rich management exposure in banking, textile, and teaching in business administration.