Sunday, August 13, 2006

The OODA loop

Sure Fire Institute has a very good introduction to decision making in tactical military or police situations.

Because all tactical operations are dynamic, they are also time sensitive. Decisions and actions that are delayed are often rendered ineffective because of the constantly changing circumstances. When an adversary is involved, the operation is not only time sensitive, but also time competitive. Time or opportunity neglected by one adversary can be exploited by the other. Recognizing the importance of this characteristic, Napoleon said, "It may be that in the future I may lose a battle, but I shall never lose a minute".

A useful tool for understanding the importance of this concept is the OODA Loop. The OODA Loop, often called Boyd's Cycle, is a creation of Col. John Boyd, USAF (Ret.). Col. Boyd was a student of tactical operations and observed a similarity in many battles and campaigns. He noted that in many of the engagements, one side presented the other with a series of unexpected and threatening situations with which they had not been able to keep pace. The slower side was eventually defeated. What Col. Boyd observed was the fact that conflicts are time competitive.

According to Boyd's theory, conflict can be seen as a series of time-competitive, Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action (OODA) cycles. Each party to a conflict begins by observing themselves, the physical surroundings and the adversary. Next they orient themselves. Orientation refers to making a mental image or snapshot of the situation. Orientation is necessary because of the fluid, chaotic nature of conflicts makes it impossible to process information as fast as we can observe it. This requires a freeze-frame concept and provides a perspective or orientation. Once we have an orientation, we need to make a decision. The decision takes into account all the factors present at the time of the orientation. Last comes the implementation of the decision. This requires action. One tactical adage states that, "Decisions without actions are pointless". Actions without decisions are reckless. Then, because we hope that our actions will have changed the situation, the cycle begins anew. The cycle continues to repeat itself throughout a tactical operation.
We are about to see if Israel can get back inside the enemy's decision loop. Let us hope so.

There is more about the OODA loop at the above link. GWTWT.

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