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Using the OODA Loop for Today's Decisions




Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. The OODA loop is a system used by military, created by Air Force Colonel John Boyd and were mentioned to me recently by a fellow business consultant who uses the system to help failing manufacturing companies. What a poignant time to be applying the OODA loop to all aspects of business. It seems every day for weeks businesses have been adjusting and making tough decisions.


The most difficult thing for leaders is getting stuck in decisions or in-decisions. Our need for perfection and known factors can keep us from deciding, can keep us stuck, and can keep us from moving past something.


Its the second and fourth steps of the OODA that can be the most helpful today for companies of all sizes, no matter what you are facing. The second step requires orientation. I find that geographical perspective change enhances our ability to re-orient easier. Looking at a problem from shelter-in-place orders can actually help us see the issue from a different perspective. Many times we observe and decide and skip two crucial steps to the process.


I encourage people to step into a different decision making quadrant and to do it literally if possible. Our decision making quadrants can get comfortable and don't stretch us in tough times. From Dr. Tabi Kahler's work in the Process Communication Model, we should move to a different quadrant and re-orient ourselves.


The four quadrants are Internal, External, Withdrawing, and Involving. Do I normally use my internal experience to make decisions? Do I use external facts and gather knowledge to make my decision? Do I withdraw from people to make a decision? Do I involve others to make a decision?


Use the orient step of the OODA loop to re-orient yourself into a different quadrant or to multiple different quadrants to enlighten and enhance your decision. A literal interpretation of this would be to walk down to the research department to gather data from the team and have a conversation about what you are looking for. Go away for the night and sleep on the decision in a completely different location. Meet with your team off sight and brainstorm other options. Physical perspective shifts in the quadrants can effectively provide options that weren't there before.


After reaching your decision, land firmly and execute the ACT step. Sometimes we want to decide then only act part of the way or tip toe around having to put a tough decision in action. I would actually go back to the second step and brainstorm the short and long term of all of the options on the table as a way to ensure ACTION will take place fully after the decision.





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