Why You Need To Get Your OODA Loop On

Trying to redesign a process in your organisation? The OODA loop — observe, orient, decide, act, then do the whole thing again — can be a useful way to approach planning for change.

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The OODA approach was designed by US military strategist John Boyd based on his observations of the Korean war, but remains applicable today, as Gartner analyst Ian Bertram pointed out at the Gartner business process management summit last week:

You think about any information process in your organisation today, this is what you would do. There's a lot of literature around the OODA loop and how can we take it into the business realm.

As with most frameworks, this isn't a structure that you should follow to the exclusion of all reason: it's just a useful method for developing your approach. In many ways the loop is the most important element: if you assume that the end of a project means a problem is permanently solved, you're in for a rude shock. Knowing you're likely to revisit these issues will influence how you respond to them.


    This is very similar to the Six Sigma methodology, particularly the Lean version which follows the DMAIC approach - Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control.

    This too is an almost infinite loop of process improvement as you are constantly trying to reduce the number of errors per million.

    Last edited 27/05/14 9:50 am

    As a process, the OODA loop is more suited for adapting to change and gaining an edge in a competitive field. The purpose of Boyd's approach was to "get inside" another's OODA loop by spending the minimum amount of time in the Observe and Orient phases. Being aware of information and challenges, and then being able to adapt in an informed manner, means you can make faster decisions and responses.


    John Robb, who writes the Global Guerrillas blog http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/ has a wealth of information about applying the OODA loop in various markets and is worth a read.

    Hence the term 'continual improvement'.

    I think the six sigma approach is a lot more detailed.

    Edward Deming, the father of process improvement, coined the PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act / Adjust). Any of these continuous improvement methodologies are derivative of this.

    I'm a process analyst for a fairly large company, and whenever I'm writing or auditing processes, I bring it back to PDCA. There might be different levels of detail or granularity in a specific process, but as long as it goes through these steps, chances are it's on the right track.

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