The Lesson of John Boyd for Decision Makers

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Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

The Lesson of John Boyd for Decision Makers

You can use the "OODA Loop" of fighter pilot John Boyd for various kinds of decision-making in different situations and circumstances, including non-military, corporate, departmental, and team environments. And in your personal life too...

❗You must Observe (get information) and Orient (analyze, think) before you Decide and Act. Even when you're under a lot of time pressure. Try to perform this 'loop' faster than your competitors.

On one hand, the time we have to make operational, tactical and even strategic decisions has decreased in the current internet era. On the other hand, this also means that the value of having done some proper research, smart thinking and having a sound strategy before you act has become even bigger than before. A paradox.

Even if you need to act fast, that does not mean you have to act immediately! Moreover, you can have an advantage if your competitors are forced into making non-prepared, hasty, probably wrong decisions. If you are able to find the time to step back and think about 'the big picture', even for a few minutes, you have a big advantage over others who don’t.

Boyd advises you to swiftly (quickly):
  1. OBSERVE (take in information), then
  2. ORIENT (process/analyze the information, find out what are the key issues and options), then
  3. DECIDE (make a clear, conscious, and shared choice while remaining open for any changing circumstances). And only then
  4. ACT (execute in a clear, firm, efficient, straightforward manner) and quickly restart from 1.
Again, the OODA Loop can be applied at both the individual, team and organizational level!

The OODA steps may seem straightforward. But... you need to practice so you’ll be able to cycle the loop fast. Like a fighter pilot.
💡5-10 minute exercise. Think over how you make important decisions. Use OODA to guide you through the process and decide if you should make any change in the way you make decisions.

The entire “information warfare” process described by Boyd is more complex and involves multiple feedback loops. See the OODA knowledge center for more background and a comprehensive scheme.
Or would you rather continue with another approach related to decision-making and/or valuation?

  David Wilson
Manager, Canada

Remember the Source

If John Boyd was a fighter pilot, OODA makes sense. I agree with Jaap that the concept of OODA can be useful for decision makers as well. When leaders (or professionals) are in situations where decisi...

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

OODA Loop and PDSA Cycle

@David Wilson: Thank you for your reaction. Indeed there are similarities and also major differences between OODA and PDSA. Let’s keep this discussion focused on the significance of OODA for decision...

  Helen Strong
Business Consultant, South Africa

OODA in Business

Thankfully in business most actions are not necessarily required at the 'speed' of a jet fighter. 'Observing' comes from both a long-term & short-term perspective. We have to know what is 'normal' an...

  Michael Norris
Director, United States

OODA for Crisis

Lt. Colonel Boyd developed OODA when US pilots were experiencing high rates of combat losses. OODA was developed for a very rapid decision making process which is constantly recycled to achieve combat...

  David Redpath
CEO, Canada

OODA Was Only a Part of It

It is interesting to note that Boyd was not just concerned with fighter tactics, in fact his OODA concept was not specifically bothered about that at all, it was part of a much larger thesis on the na...

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

OODA for Decision-makers and Managers

@David Redpath: you are completely right in arguing that Boyd was not just concerned with fighter tactics, his work should rather be seen as an information strategy concept for information warfare. Se...

  Dave McLachlan
Project Manager, Australia

The Value of OODA (Boyd) for Decision Makers

I've always interpreted Boyd's work to support a view that two of the most important characteristics of a decision maker are a predisposition to making decisions and a sense of urgency. Please note I...

  Maurice Hogarth
Consultant, United Kingdom

OODA as a PSDM Framework

I consider OODA as a broad framework into which a combination of Brainstorming, Kepner-Tregoe and other processes for problem solving and decision making fits when formally applying a structured proce...


More on OODA Loop:
OODA Loop & John Boyd
OODA & Adaptive Enterprise
OODA Loop versus PDSA Cycle
Books on Boyd and his OODA Concept
Crucial Dialogue Model Refines OODA Loop
OODA Loop in Education / Schools
🔥Scope of OODA Loops
Best Practices
👀The Lesson of John Boyd for Decision Makers
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