The OODA Loop and Organizational Learning

This article Fast Transients is near and dear to me as an Air Force employee.

Anyone who runs even minimally in Air Force circles knows that fighter pilots (currently) run the Air Force. So, a good rule of thumb when briefing them is to phrase non-military concepts in terms they can understand. One such example is translating the conventional quality problem-solving process of Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) into the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) loop developed by the late Col John Boyd, USAF (ret). Basically, based on his observations of successful fighter engagements during the Korean War by the American F-86 Sabre vs the Russian-built MIG-15, he discovered that if a given pilot can react and adjust faster than the enemy pilot to changes in the combat sight picture, the faster-thinking pilot would win the combat, even with a slower, less maneuverable aircraft than his opponent. He then theorized this decision-making process into his OODA Loop.

We all know that the pace of change and the unprecedented fiscal environment is forcing governments at all levels to react quicker and quicker to that pace of change. However, success lies in how quickly and correctly we adjust to that change.

One key success factor is seeing our environment critically, not so much how we want it to be (although that also helps) but how it really is. As the article points out:

“Orient is an interpretation process. It carries all of the biases and assumptions that are inherent in human nature. There is a heavy bias toward seeing what is believed vs. seeing what is. This is the weakest point in the process, and the point where deception exploits the opponent by presenting something they expect or want to see.”

This to me was the key takeaway. In learning organizations, we must not be afraid to see the environment for how it really is. The same is true for our personal lives.

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