Observe, Orient, Decide, & Act!

One thing leaders do is making decisions and try to solve problems. Let me give you an approach that you might think about using when deciding which direction your organization is going to move or perhaps when solving a problem.

A senior executive of a major corporation once said to me, “There are a lot of opportunities out there for my corporation. My job is to figure out which one of those are the best as we move ahead.” 

So, let me suggest a methodology which goes back to a rather famous Korean War fighter pilot by the name of John Boyd. John came up with an approach he called the OODA Loop. 

Observe. Orient. Decide. Act.

John used that particular approach to train fighter pilots after he returned from the Korean War, arguing that if they applied this approach in aerial combat, they would be very successful.

·      First, observe what is going around in the airspace.

·      Second, orient on the most important thing that is going on.

·      Third, make a decision against that particular problem.

·      Last, act very quickly to deal with that problem.

John said, “If you follow this approach, you will have the greatest opportunity to be successful in aerial combats.” And John was very, very successful not only as a pilot but also as an instructor.

After he left the Air Force, he took the same concept of the OODA Loop and applied it into a number of books in a long series of lectures that he provided to major corporations all around the United States.

1.    Observe: What is happening in the environment for my particular company? What’s staying the same? What’s changing?

2.    Orient: Focus on the most important things going on that affect the environment and things that are happening within the organization as you think about the future.

3.    Decide: Make a decision on those particular items and never forget that my time to make a decision is relatively brief because time is the resource I have to husband, just like I husband resources such as: people, money, and capital items. I’ll probably have to make decisions when I haven’t got absolutely all the information I would like—that’s what makes leadership tough, but that decision so important. 

4.    Act: Take action on that particular item(s). If there is a major change, I have to know as a leader that I’m going to have to focus a lot of my attention on that particular new effort-- monitor it closely and be sure we are making minor adjustments along the way to move onto greater success for the organization. 

So, as you are solving problems or determining the opportunity or the way ahead for your particular organization, you might think back to this story of a famous fighter pilot, Colonel John Boyd and the OODA Loop. 

We want to hear from YOU! How has the OODA Loop helped you make decisions as a leader? Share your comments below.