Applying OODA to Leadership (WIP Draft)

The OODA Leadership technique

In meetings, the first plan presented most often becomes the basis for the meeting’s deliberations with the rest of the meeting becoming a process of modifying the first plan to accommodate the other parties.

This has the effect that whoever has the most acceptable plan the soonest will most often set the agenda.

A reasonable model to use to guide this process is the OODA loop used in military doctrine. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

The individual, team, or organization which has the fastest OODA process will have the greatest role in determining the agenda.

  • Observe your surroundings
  • Orient yourself to understand what is at work and what that signifies
  • Decide on a course of action that will correctly produce the desired results.
  • Act to make course of action happen

An OODA Loop can be improved by improving any of the four stages. These improvements can be centered on just one stage or on multiple stages. In general, I would recommend treating each stage as a single unit that feeds into the other units. This is because treating the OODA stages as a singular unit can get bogged down in unnecessary details and qualifications.

Applying the above to a meeting, if you are able to quickly come to terms with a situation, circle back with all stakeholders -or at least the people with decision-making rights- and determine and draft an appropriate plan, your proposal is more likely to be adopted.

Aside from improving your own processes to achieve a faster OODA loop, there is also an effective but disingenuous and unethical strategy to be faster than your peers.

This method is to deprive others of all relevant information for one of the OODA phases so that you have the first viable plan. Two examples are if you deliberately fail to share relevant information before a meeting so that you have surprise data or questions to bring into the meeting and another is that you actively work ahead of an agenda and then force a conclusion within a limited timeframe. These methods are disingenuous because they actively deprive others of either information or time to develop their own thoughts and proposals.

A way to work ahead ethically is to allot time for groups to discuss new information. I find that postponing a final decision to a second meeting is oftentimes is an effective, if not wasteful strategy.

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