Solving Business Problems with Dogfights and OODA Loops

In Left of the Dateline we have been discussing topics ranging from the evolving role of the CIO, to the skills and competencies that organisations need to be successful in utilizing business analytics to compete with their rivals.

I was recently at SAS Global Forum in Orlando FL, listening to Thornton May. He mentioned something that really hit the mark when it came to decision making. He mentioned something called an OODA Loop. I had never heard this term before, so off I went and did some research. The OODA loop is a concept that was developed by Colonel John Boyd of the US Air Force and is really a cycle of events that surround the decision making process in military dog fighting

The OODA Loop
The OODA Loop

Colonel Boyd suggested that those who could get inside the rival's decision cycle can gain the advantage. I for one agree with the good Colonel, so here's my take.

O - Observe

Decisions are made on observations. Of course today observations are many and varied, they come from internal and external sources and need to be managed consistently and constantly. Boyd suggests the observation includes unfolding circumstances, outside information and the interaction with the environment - sounds the same in business data. Big data plays heavily into this part, with plenty written on this, so let me leave this challenge. Can YOU manage the data you need to in order to OBSERVE?

O - Orient

When you read what has been said about Orientation you see that it's the part of the decision process where organisations apply their lense to what is observed. What does your corporate lense look like? Is it clean? Scratched or damaged? Is the culture of the organisation or defined norms bending the truth on what you observe. Are you ready to let the data you have available to you orient you for success? It's time to let analytics shape your view and today you can with High Performance Analytics.

D - Decide

When you have to make any business decision, it could be as simple as asking "what’s the chance my customer will leave me". How would you know this? How do you measure the propensity to churn? I would advocate using analytics of a predictive nature to do this, otherwise you simply won't be deciding, you will be guessing and you will be looking backwards rather than forwards. The decision process needs to deliver an action (we will get to that in a moment). At every stage of the OODA Loop you will see that we are looking to feed back into the observation stage, we look to re-orient and then make additional decisions. Deciding more than once on anything is an iterative process. A process that is supported by analytics and governed by a robust information management and model management framework.

One simple piece of  advice I would offer is to decide to decide. I have seen so many people keep waiting for the right time, the perfect data or the perfect model. Let me assure you it never comes along, decide to start and start to decide before your rivals make you irrelevant.

A - Act

Now you have a decision, ACT on it. As Boyd says this will produce an unfolding interaction with the environment, take that and add it to your feedback loop, add it to your "observations" and cycle on through.

The OODA Loop
The OODA Loop

When military thinking is applied to the decision making process, especially when combined with highly capable people and robust technology, you get sustainable competitive advantage.

So what's holding your organisation back from better decision making?


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  1. [...] > Left of the Date Line > Big data and high performance analytics across Asia Pacific « Solving Business Problems with Dogfights and OODA Loops Big data and high performance analytics across Asia Pacific Marnie Macdonald|May 28, 2012 [...]

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    The Asia Pacific region provides a unique set of challenges (ความท้าทาย, cabaran) and opportunities (peluang, 机会). Our diverse culture, rapid technology adoption and positive market has our region poised for great things. One thing we have in common with the rest of the world is the need to be globally competitive while staying locally relevant. On this blog, our key regional thought leaders provide an Asia Pacific perspective on doing business, using analytics to be more effective, and life left of the date line.
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