Jan 09

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OODA: Observe Orient Decide Act

In his January 5th column, Thomas Friedman uses the US Air Force as a case study for fiscal discussions currently occurring in Washington.  This same concept can also be applied to non-profits operation.  In his article, Friedman looks at the OODA Loop, a four step process that is ingrained in fighter pilots through training.  OODA which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act enables pilots to constantly observe your surroundings and take action when needed.

“The idea is that if your OODA Loop is faster and more accurate than the other pilot’s, you’ll shoot his plane out of the sky. If the other pilot’s OODA Loop is better, he’ll shoot you down.”

So how can the idea of the ODDA loop be applied to your organizations work?  Let’s start with the first O, observe.  When was the last time that you took a step back from your day to day programs and observed the current state of affairs?  What are trends nationwide and locally?  What are other organizations doing?  What are you hearing?

The next step brings in more factors.  Orienting incorporates your past experiences, traditions, and most importantly your organization’s mission.  Now that you know what the needs are and are viewing it through a lens of your mission, it is time to decide.  Determine how you are going to resolve the issue at hand and take action.

But here is the challenge.  Are we going through the full cycle?  In terms of the economy, Friedman says we are not and many organizations are in the same place as well.

“Maybe you can grow without a plan. But if you want to ensure that every scarce dollar gets the biggest bang, you can’t cut without a plan. It’s deciding and acting without observing and orienting.”

If we do not observe our surroundings and orient our actions based on the situation and our mission, we are going to be less effective in the work we do.  So, how do we begin to incorporate these steps into our organizational processes?  Conduct a Google search for reports or articles about the issue(s) you are focused on and stories about organizations which have measurable results to learn from.  As your OODA loop should be constantly on, consider setting up a google alert for those searches so you daily or weekly you will receive an email with new articles to read.  If you have a strategic plan, when was the last time you read it?  Strategic plans are not helpful collecting dust.  One organization I worked with printed their mission statement and strategic goals on a banner.  Whenever the Board of Directors met, they hung it on the wall as a constant reminder of orientation.  If you do not have a current strategic plan, consider beginning the process of developing one.  It will help you observe what is happening and if used properly will became a guide based against which you can orient future decisions.

This process may require you to act a little less but it will help make sure that your future initiates are well targeted and effective.

Permanent link to this article: http://evaluatingeffectiveness.com/ooda-observe-orient-decide-act/