I had a realization at work a few days back. My observation is that the decisions that are being made and the actions that are going on seem to be somewhat unrelated to what I perceive is going on.

This got me thinking about something I read online. I first encountered this was in relation to firearms and dealing with dangerous situations. It’s called the OODA loop.

This was developed by the US Air Force to deal with situations at all scales — of course this can be used in most situations as well.

From a high level the cycle is:

  1. Observe
  2. Orient
  3. Decide
  4. Act

This cycle continues without end. In the ideal case you’re running through this loop quicker than your adversary (regardless if they are a single person, or a rival army or corporation).

Each step is important.

We all go through life observing the outside world. It’s natural. The key is that to try to see the world for what it is without trying applying your own biases to it.

Orient takes into account what the objective is; where you’re trying to get to. It also takes into account the strategic situation you happen to be in — what your opponent is likely thinking.

Decide is where you figure out what you’re going to do. This isn’t necessarily the “right’ answer since many times that really can’t be divined. A decision must still be made none-the-less. You form a hypothesis to try and go with that.

Act is where you implement your decision.

Your action changes things which is why we go back to the top of the loop.

This goes on continually and iteratively we move forward to victory.

None of the steps can be ignored though. While everyone observes, it’s equally important that those observations go into the rest of the process. The decisions need to support the strategy. The actions must be consistent with the decisions. The orientation uses the observation as its input.

Too often I see the wheels come off though.

Decisions are made in a vacuum. Actions go contrary to the decision. Observations are ignored. In good times it’s easy to paper over the mistakes because of the rising tide effect. In bad times however this is a bigger problem.

Look around. Evaluate where you are and where you want to be. Come up with a course of action to try to get you there. Do it.

If you can’t because you don’t have the staff, well then there’s an observation. Do you need to do less? Focus your efforts more narrowly? Hire more people? Decide. Do.

A part of your business isn’t working as well as you would want it to? Pour more money in to shore it up and retrench? Pull out of it? Modify how you’re doing it? Decide. Do.

Not deciding or acting is itself a decision. It’s just a decision that’s the default. Know what you’re doing and be conscious of it.