OODA loop

From aerial combat to organizational decision-making.

Story category: Organization

Story tags: Control loop, OODA loop, decision making

“We like to work with Control loops”. Let me rephrase that … ”we love to work with Control Loops”. Not for putting people in check, but as tool to enable people to be in control. Control Loops are organizational structures that put people in control of a “controlled variable”. A controlled variable can be maintaining a target (stabilizing outcomes), minimizing something (negative outcomes), maximizing something (positive outcomes), or optimizing things (balancing trade-offs).
Control loops secure four factors, which together, enable control. The first factor is a goal; without a goal there is no direction. The second factor is understanding; without understanding the process, the current state of the process, the influence of decisions and actions on the outcomes, achievement depends on luck and chance. The third factor is influence; without influence there is no way to move things from the where they are right now to where they should be (goal). And the fourth factor is observability, without being able to see what is happening (the current state) there is no way of establishing where we are compared to set goals.
All these factors are embedded into the organization through mechanisms of control. Having all of these control mechanisms in place certainly does help, but it is not enough. In the end the strength of the loop depends on decision making and acting that is done by people who are active within the loop.
Last week we were fortunate enough to partake in a training on OODA loops which was done at Echelon Front by Jocko Willink (Navy SEAL) and Dave Berke (Top Gun pilot). OODA stands for: Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The OODA loop was developed by John Boyd, an American fighter pilot who was fighting in the Korean was and had to deal with opponents that were equipped with better planes. To win he could not rely on material advantages, but on faster and better decision making; to accommodate this the OODA loop was developed.
1. Observe: this overlaps with the feedback channels of a control loop, streams of observations/data.
2. Orient: this is providing context to the data and turning the data into information useful information.
3. Decide: making decisions based on orientation which consists of observations of new information and feedback on actions that are taken.
4. Act: based on decisions actions are taken which in turn lead to changes in the environment which are fed back through new observations.
This loop, as we see it, is a perfect tool to help decision makers within the loop with gaining even more control through a synergy of the organizational control loop and the OODA loop.
In upcoming stories we will dive deeper in each of the for parts of the OODA loop.
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