Based in Washington, Ross is a general manager of a food safety company. His musings explore life, work and every moment in between.

Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

Colonel John Boyd was a legendary American fighter pilot who was known as “40 second Boyd” for how quickly he could out maneuver and defeat other pilots in training school. Not only was he an excellent pilot, but is credited with being the brain child of the F-16, F-18 and retired to became a sought after military strategist whose ideas have transcended business, sports, and even litigation. He is widely known for what he called the OODA loop – his process for making sound decisions. Based on his research, the OODA loop focused the mind to making decisions faster than the opponent in air to air combat. His theory states that "time is the dominant parameter. The pilot who goes through the OODA cycle in the shortest time prevails because his opponent is caught responding to situations that have already changed."

The OODA framework is simple:

Observe: the collection of data by means of the senses

Orientation: the analysis and synthesis of data to form one’s current mental perspective

Decision: the determination of a course of action based on one’s current mental perspective

Action: the physical playing out of decisions


OODA is effective because it is simple and scales. Developed for rapid decisions, we must observe the environment, orient or decipher what it is telling us, decide on an action, and then act. Skipping any of these steps breaks the OODA loop and reduces our effectiveness. It scales from the most mundane problem (what are we going to eat tonight?) to highly strategic (should we launch a product or service?).

I can think of many times in my life where I have skipped a step and reduced my own effectiveness. I have observed, oriented, decided, and then not acted. My lack of action voids the framework and my decision. The observations and orientations change during the time of inaction and I must go through the framework again from the start. All four steps are critical.

Try out the OODA framework and let me know if it helps you too.

Leadership in defeat.