What is OODA Loop and How is it Different from PDCA?
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What is OODA Loop?
OODA Loop, aka the Boyd Cycle, was first conceived by the military strategist and pilot of the United States Air Force, John Boyd, as a framework for rapid decision-making on the battlefield.
Today, it has been picked up and is widely used by a number of other fields as well, like business, politics, and education as a method to make quick decisions in fast-paced environments.
The name OODA loop is an acronym made up of the four main steps: observe, orient, decide, and act. The basic idea is that you’re able to gain a strategic advantage if you can calmly observe your surroundings, orient yourself, and then swiftly make a decision and act accordingly.
The first step is to observe both your opponent and environment closely. Your “opponent” might be an actual player like your biggest competitor in the real estate industry. Though, it also might be some threat or external change like the speeding up of digital transformation or the replacement of human-led work with machines.
Whatever it may be, there is some development or change that you need to decide how to respond to (or whether it even warrants a response). Try to gather as much information as possible on the situation to begin.
Next, based on those observations and similar experiences in the past, you have to orient yourself and your company to be able to effectively respond to the opponent. You can do this by narrowing down the list of responses your organization can make.
After determining your potential courses of action, you need to make the final decision. Note that in some cases, taking no action may be the best choice. Also, the OODA Loop is designed with a fluid, continually-changing situation in mind, so companies will often shift between “observe” and “decide” as more information is retrieved.
After a decision is reached, you have to quickly go ahead and implement it. Then, you move back into the “observe” phase to keep watching the results of your decision and assess the impact.
Keep in mind that the OODA loop is not a circular loop, despite what the name might suggest. Instead, it’s more like a series of adjustments as you continue gaining more insight into the real situation, so that you can eventually make the most appropriate response.
Benefits of OODA Loop
The obvious benefit of using the OODA loop is that you can make decisions and react to new developments more quickly. You can’t lead a team effectively as an indecisive person, whether in business or on the battlefield. The OODA loop offers a clear process to reach the right decision, starting with thorough research and clarifying the situation.
The OODA Loop is also useful in times of disaster when immediate decision-making is required; if you can use the OODA Loop to take appropriate action immediately, you can minimize the damage done.
Also, the OODA loop framework is easy to employ right away and is often implemented on a small scale by both individuals and teams in business.
However, to better understand the OODA loop, we should compare it to the more mature common method for decision-making: PDCA. Learn about the differences in the next section.
The Difference Between OODA Loop and PDCA
PDCA is a simple model for enacting change in an organization, or starting up a project. Like OODA, PDCA is also an acronym that is made up of four steps: plan, do, check, and act.
While the PDCA method is easier to understand, critics might say that it is too linear and doesn’t match with the rapidly-evolving realities of the corporate world. The process is exactly as it sound - you prepare and come up with a plan to go about the project, then put it into action, assess the results, and then make adjustments to fix the errors. Then, you would ideally use what you learned as you make a new plan, returning to the first step, and beginning the cycle again.
The PDCA is moreso a slow-paced and careful approach than the OODA loop, so it isn’t recommended for situations where you need to react quickly.
OODA loop can come in handy both in work and in your private life. So the next time you're faced with an unexpected situation, gather all the facts, orient yourself by narrowing down your courses of action, refresh yourself with all the latest info and your past experiences so that you can make a decision, and then implement it right away. This way you can be sure to make the best decision in the shortest amount of time.
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