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.

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