The OODA Loop

roller coaster riders upside down

Recently I had John Boyd’s “Observe, Orient, Decide and Act (OODA) Loop” introduced to me. This is a dynamic system of cyclical responses to handling an active and dynamic problem.  Its original focus was military applications, but over time it was applied to other areas such as the business world in areas of marketing and product development. The OODA flow sequence allows for a tremendous amount of resetting as more information and intel is gathered.  As you would expect from a military application new information is coming at all times and may thwart previous information so that the process should be reset.  The goal of the original application was to move so fast and with such precision that you’d get into the action path of your enemy causing their observations, orientation, decisions and actions to be thrown out of focus.

By Patrick Edwin Moran - Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Flow image by Patrick Edwin Moran – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Given that causing others to lose certainty was the key goal, why do we want to evaluate this mechanism for decision making for project management? Because it’s core function is to drive clarity of understanding and decisiveness in action.  Our customers may change their minds, they may not know what they need, and we may be getting conflicting messages.  As leaders we need to be able to take in context look at our resources and team to deduce what the best decision and resultant actions should be. We’ll be taking the next few days to investigate this flow and make its value clear for project management.

What are the systems you use to integrate changing requirements from customers and product line managers?

– the MGMT