The OODA loop: An efficacious technique to boost project management efficiency

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BY TAHMID SADMAN

It is hard to associate successful firms with jargon such as inefficacy, plodding or jerky. Indeed, ingrained in such organizations are processes that breed efficiency, creativity and speed. The unravelling of events in such firms are cloistered with a subtle degree of urgency, coupled with the need to tick the much important boxes in the bosses’ books. Project management falls in the same line of events. Although most managers are concerned with the ends, the means have commanded attention from various fronts. In today’s fast paced uncertain world, the need for a structured systems to facilitate project handling is profound. One such system is the OODA loop.

Coined by Colonel John Boyd of the US Air Force, the OODA loop has been the subject of intense discourse. In the first place, the process was introduced for military purposes, but it was soon propagated in the business realm and unsurprisingly so. There are striking resemblances between the arenas of military and business. When an army is involved in a battle, the need to catch the enemy off-guard, execute processes faster and make better decisions is always on. The same principles applies for business and the OODA loop ensures that such critical elements materializes.

The OODA loop consists of four key elements- Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. These four elements act as the pillars of accurate decision making, solid awareness of the surrounding environment, flexibility, anticipation and speed. That said, the OODA loop can prove to be instrumental to the success of project management.

Observe– It is important to get a solid grip on the dynamics surrounding the project.  This entails the team to dig deep in order to unearth the facts pertaining to the project. Information must be structured in an organized way so that insights can be gleaned and the repercussions of the multifarious scenarios can be understood. Information must be collected regarding the project’s potential interaction with the environment and the company itself, the current status quo and relevant outside information. That said, it is important to engage with stakeholders to achieve the goal. Project managers must not get blinded by the project only- relevant risk factors must also be taken into account. In this way better decisions can be made.

Orient– The information collected then must be analyzed thoroughly. Individuals in the project management team must be assigned to analyze the impacts of multiple scenarios on key project metrics that will be set by management. Also, the information extracted should be interpreted using a number of standards-cultural traditions, previous experience, the ability to analyze and synthesize information etc. This analysis will lay the platform for decision makers to go out there and make the right calls. It is also important to evaluate the analysis made and the information extracted. The essence of orientation is to rally important filters stated above in bold to make robust decisions.

Decision– The analysis and evaluation in the orientation stage should come in handy for decision makers. Now, the decision makers must make a decision. In a project, there will be a lot of options and openings on the table. It is up to the decision makers to choose which the most viable alternative is. The decision makers must unbiased, objective oriented and needless to say, pro-organizational. Decisions need to be based on a consensus as the analysis should portray a vivid picture of the alternatives. Feedback should be provided to the members analyzing the information in order to make decisions better.

Action-   It’s time to act on the decision made. Whether the action will yield the desired outcome will depend upon the accuracy of the information gleaned, the effectiveness of the analysis made and the soundness of the decision taken. Feedback must provide to the all the prior three levels to ensure that the team members understand what needs to be changed, what needs to continue and what needs to be discarded.

 

Tahmid Sadman is a guest contributor to Gradinsights, the career research service of GradConnect. He can be reached at tsadman3@gmail.com. More articles from Tahmid and the GradInsights team can be found at www.grad-insights.com.

 



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