The Observation of OODA

[Editor’s note: this is a second article carrying on from an initial article about the OODA Loop]

Observation is near and dear to my heart.  It is what the artist and the scientist have in common.  They’re both unified in their need to take in information from the world around them and combine it with what they already understand.  Boyd’s concepts of observation were dynamic.  If we look at the diagram below we see the observation receives further input from later steps for re-evaluation as new information comes in, new decisions are made, and new actions are executed.

By Patrick Edwin Moran - Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Flow image by Patrick Edwin Moran – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Boyd’s concept of orientation includes what I would consider to be some key themes of observation, but he’s concerned with observation of just data.  That’s why later stages (Decision and Action) can contribute further observational data.  When we’re looking at information we need to be very careful to separate the information from the interpretation of the data.  For example unfolding circumstances may include a competitor releasing a product that is very similar to what we’re building to release.  This is simultaneously information (the specs for the product) and potential for interpretation of that data, but we need to carefully separate the orientation (the interpretation in context) and the observations because jumping to the orientation phase too quickly could result in missing information.

Boyd’s observation includes implicit guidance and control, unfolding circumstances, outside information, unfolding interaction with the environment, and the results from later steps as we loop through the process.  Guidance and control mean that we’re seeing the process through each step with intention and taking the previous step into full consideration.  As executioners of this loop we’re looking to make sure we don’t miss something, we don’t get ahead of ourselves, and that we’re disciplined about what we’re doing.  In LEAN terminology we’re interested in the cycles being short, and that we’re responding to customer requests after getting an MVP in front of them.  This is a high paced iteration and one that allows us to be dynamic, responsive, and useful in partnering with our customers, but only when we’re observing correctly (which may include observing that we observed wrongly earlier in the process). We may see a competing product with a similar implementation, be able to understand that implementation and then get a deeper grasp of what the customer is asking for. We may see that a new operating system, a new material, a new delivery mechanism, or a new use case has opened up, and begin feeding information about those things into our observational queues.  We’re constantly feeding the loop, but looking for ever clearer information to be used.

What are the things you look for when observing for a business use case? A management use case?

– the MGMT