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Published April 30, 2021
What is OODA Loop?
An Ooda Loop is a way to make quick decisions personally or in an organization. I apply these when playing strategy games but they seem to be quite useful for organization management as well. I came across this framework for decision making researching production and project management, specifically in this video in the GDC vault. An OODA loop’s purpose is to minimize the individual or organization’s reaction time. The Ooda Loop was originally designed for maneuvering in warfare, and revolved around the ideas of surprise and deception by disrupting the enemy’s decision making skills. The orientation step of an ooda loop is about creating mental models to understand processes, decisions, and consequences. Situational awareness is crucial for most decision-making processes.
  • Observe : Identify the problem or threat and gain an overall understanding of the internal and external. This might be data gathering. The current organizational state, info about competitors and markets are collected. An observation is only a snapshot of time and that should not be disregarded.
  • Orient : Reflect on what has been found in observations. Because so many decisions are unconscious / instinctual, making a conscious decision requires situational awareness and understanding. This step requires understanding why decisions are made before taking action. For an organization, situational models can be created with machine learning tools to remove biases. On a smaller scale, orientation can be done by creating mental models and rehearsed drills to shape judgement. Use research and existing methods to make good decisions.
  • Decide : Create a roadmap. Have some meetings. Make suggestions towards action. Get feedback from subject matter experts and people on your team.
  • Act : Carry out the decision and related changes. This step might include testing such as A/B testing before action.
Hick’s Law can be applied to grok the reaction time of an Ooda loop when it has more than one input or output. The more numerous the inputs and outputs, the reaction time is slowed down. Imagine competing Ooda loops! Below are some factors that affect the efficiency of the process in question :
  • Number of scenarios that can play out
  • Denial that an event has occurred and refusing to acknowledge it immediately.
  • Complexity of the stimuli
  • The need for approval prior to action
  • Emotional stress of the team or environment
  • Trust between team members
  • The level of intuitive skill related to the incoming stimulus
  • Level of clarity in the business’ goals
  • Constantly changing inputs
Alternatives to OODA :
  • MDMP – Military decision making process
  • PDCA – Plan, do, check / Shewart cycle
  • SWOT analysis
  • GTD – Getting things done method

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