Monday, 30 September 2013

Managing Information - Speeding Up Your OODA Loop

Alan Elwood
Risk and Resilience Ltd

In my last post I talked about the need to manage the process by which crisis decisions are taken and talked about the OODA Loop (read Decision Making Under Pressure – The OODA Loop). In this post I’m going to present some concepts around how you can speed up the time it takes you to complete the OODA Loop. If you can get your decision making processes to happen at a greater speed than that at which the crisis is unfolding then your decisions stand to be more effective. On top of that, making a larger number of quicker decisions, each one correcting the errors of the previous one, is likely to help you reach an optimum solution faster than if you wait for total clarity and try to take one right decision. So what to do?

CRIP: Establish and maintain a full understanding of the situation. This is sometimes referred to as the Common Recognised Information Picture (CRIP). It is built up of all available validated information. It is not a chronological list but a contextualised picture that can inform decisions. Date/time stamp it and keep it up to date, even when the decision makers are not meetings. Use information pull (gathering information in) and information push (people and organisations knowing instinctively to forward information) to achieve this.

Strategic Aims: Make sure the Crisis Management Team establish the strategic aims for the crisis early on. They may even be drafted in a plan for confirmation or adjustment on the day. These won’t change very often but they set the tone for the response, driving information management and response. If the top aim is ‘safety and staff welfare’ this will determine that things progress differently for any given situation than if it is say ‘corporate client entertainment events’. Sounds obvious and simple, but it is often overlooked.

Key Issues: Identify the key issues of the moment and when decisions have to be made by. Remember that people need time to carry out the actions that result from the decisions, so you have less time than you think. Key issues are those that arrive from looking at the CRIP through the lens of the strategic aims. They require management as they reflect the priorities that have been set. Use talented managers to select key issues and identify options prior to the CMT meeting up.

Manage Actions: Decisions need actions to make them a reality. Taking a decision is not the same as things happening. Have a process, team and resources to break decisions down into actions, allocate those actions and monitor performance. Update the CMT on progress so that they can adjust decisions accordingly.

In my final post in this series I will be looking at the reality of translating decisions into actions and all that this entails.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Decision Making Under Pressure – The OODA Loop

Alan Elwood
Risk and Resilience Ltd

This post relates to a presentation that I will give at the BCM World Conference on the 6 Nov 13 about Control Centre Design. It is one of three posts I will make before then and I hope it is of interest to you.

When United States Air Force pilot John Boyd studied the manner by which those engaged in combat took decisions in time to increase the chances of victory he developed the OODA Loop. From its origins in military doctrine the concepts around how to take decisions in time such that the actions they result in can be effective have made their way into business life. Being able to ensure that, in a crisis, an organisation is able to alter the speed at which it completes the OODA Loop can be the difference between success and failure. Ask yourself the question “Are the world’s governments able to take decisions that result in actions that are ahead of the pace at which problems in the world’s economy unfold?” It might be argued that they are not as their OODA Loop is too slow. So what is involved?

Observation: We need to be aware of what is going on around us in a crisis. That information will come from varied sources, many of which will lie outside of your organisation. Your view of the situational picture must reflect the reality of what is going on. If it does not your decisions will be ill informed and likely as not ineffective or simply too late.  

Orientation: Once a handle on the situation is achieved then its implications must be determined. Clearly you need to know that has happened, you should be clear on what is currently going on but the real trick is anticipating what might change and how that could impact you and others you rely on.  One way of doing this is to be clear on your strategic objectives for the crisis.

Making Decisions. Decisions must be taken in time to allow the actions they produce to be effective. To take decisions you need accurate and timely information, options to choose from and guidance on the time available to do so. You also need the right people.

Taking Actions. Decisions are really just expressed desires as to what should happen. Taking a decision is not the same as the actions it requires taking place. Decisions need to be translated into actions, allocated to teams and performance monitored. Feedback on progress influences our Observation aspect once more.

The nature of the crisis will determine how quickly you need to able to get round the OODA Loop. It is not the other way round!

You can read some more about this subject here. I will post the next blog on how to process information to achieve a suitable tempo of decision making soon.