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OODA Loops

Col John Boyd, USAF fighter pilot, developed the concept of the "OODA Loop" (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act) to describe the process needed to win. This model matured as he won dogfights and he later used it to describe how to gain a competitive advantage in any situation.

The OODA Loop is a succinct representation of the natural decision cycle seen in every context: war, business, product development, or life.  Recently, the OODA Loop has begun to be applied to business and product development as a way to describe their decision making cycles. In these situations, the loop often gets stuck at the "D" and the team is reduced to making a sound like "OO-OO-OO."

Getting stuck in the OODA Loop means that there are no decisions; and thus, no actions. In actuality, a decision to do nothing has been made. Time keeps moving, and resources are used. In Boyd's war-fighter scenario, the enemy gets the upper hand. In business, the competition keeps progressing in its OODA Loops and you keep using your resources while adding no value. In other words, getting stuck at the decision point can have severe, even grave consequences.
The organizational response to being stuck is often more analysis, more data, more simulations, or more "decision by wringing hands." Sometimes these efforts help, if directed at the right "sticking point," but often these activities only postpone decisions until some external event occurs that demands a decision. This results in "decision by running out of time" or, if the action is dictated by a superior, "decision by fiat." Neither of these has much chance of being a robust decision.

Read David Ullman’s paper OO-OO-OO The Sound of the Broken OODA Loop" in Crosstalk, The Journal of Defense Software Engineeering, vol. 20, no. 4,  April 2007, pp. 22-25.

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