OODA Loops - Boyd cycles


Wikipedia - OODA

Blog post


The Essential Boyd by Grant T. Hammond http://www.belisarius.com/modern_business_strategy/hammond/essential_boyd.htm



by Sally Krause, 2002



OODA loop or Boyd Cycle

  • Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action.
  • All elements of life in this cycle
  • Complete this patter quickly, faster than your opponent in times of conflict and more slowly in other times, but always follow the loop.

Life equals these loops in varieties of sizes, speeds and importance.

Famous briefings: Patterns of Conflict and A Discourse on Winning and Loosing

Survival and Prosperity

  • All organisms’ first priority is to survive and prosper; self-reliance is better than alliance.
  • In the chief aim to survive and prosper, to maintain independence and freedom of action sometimes it is necessary to form symbiotic relationships. In some cases existence is dependent on these relationships and then, since survival is the highest goal, it is a necessary element of continued life.

To survive and prosper they do the following:

  • Knowledge of the strategic environment is the first priority. Organisms have to be very observant and aware of the environment in which they find themselves.
  • One must be able to interact with the environment and those within it appropriately as the second priority. Survive by shaping the environment to your own needs, adapting where you must. Shift from isolation to interaction when appropriate.
  • One must continually observe, orient, decide and act in order to achieve and maintain freedom of action and maximize the chances for survival and prosperity. This is accomplished through a combination of rapidity, variety, harmony and initiative.

Rapidity, Variety, Harmony and Initiative

  • Rapidity - rapidity of action or reaction is required to maintain or regain initiative
  • Variety - variety is required so one is not predictable, so no recognizable pattern develops that an enemy may recognize and use to defeat you.
  • Harmony - the fit with the environment and others operating in it.
  • Initiative - taking charge of your own destiny: required if one is to master their circumstances instead of being mastered by them.

Define the environment in 3-D terms of mind-time-space to best understand the world around you and perform best.

Mental-Moral-Physical aspects of opponents, conflict and society

  • Must understand this as a whole entity
  • Boyd Defines war as a moral struggle
  • Won as much by mental as much as physical prowess
  • The end result of wars -peace- must be worthy of the horrendous means by which its achieved; so, morality plays a central role
  • Moral values provide a set of higher goals and standards that enable us to confront mistrust, uncertainty and menacing circumstances with confidence and courage.
  • Moral leverage is critical to one’s strategy of conflict
  • To win, we must minimize our friction in the mental-moral-physical sense and increase our opponent’s
  • People must believe in the cause that they fight for, must affirm what it is they stand and die for, must seek to live for some higher good or goal than merely themselves.

People first, Ideas, Second and Things Third

In order to survive and prosper:

  • It’s all a matter of connections and choices
  • The more we know, the better we connect to:
    • Environment
    • Past
    • Future
    • People
    • Ideas
    • Things

Boyd Strategy

  • Based on variety, rapidity, harmony and initiative, which are all linked by time.
  • Continue to pay attention to moral, mental and physical aspects and play the game in the mind-space-time framework
  • Time is central part of strategic thought, critical to success.
  • Ambiguity is also central to Boyd’s vision
    • Accept that world is ambiguous; we’ll never have all the info to make a decision.
    • Adapt to world around you and learn to deal with incomplete info.
    • Anchor yourself in moral conviction, remain fluid in actions, remain unpredictable and adaptable to unfolding circumstances.
    • Intelligence is about pattern recognition: use ambiguity to overcome being predictable

An effective strategy:

  • Guard against entropy by maintaining the initiative, growing continuously and constantly adapting, Greatest danger is to get captured in your own thought processes rather than remaining sensitive to the changing environment and your opponent.
  • Get inside the adversary’s OODA loop in order to win; make yours cycle faster or vary your tempos and rhythms so your opponent cannot keep up with you. Remain fluid to get inside the adversary’s loop. Protect what you value most and attack what he values most. The real target is your enemy’s perception; get into his mind in order to win.
  • An effective strategy works on three levels: moral, mental and physical
    • Do not allow yourself to become mentally confused or weaken your moral standards. That surely spells defeat. Integrity and moral conviction are keys to avoiding this.
    • Lose trust and you loose the basis for social cohesion; maintain moral authority by deed and word. Don’t do this and enemy will take advantage of this weakness to defeat you.
    • The best way to insure that an organization runs smoothly is to make sure everyone understands and is attuned to the organization’s purpose.
    • Establish trust and flexibility by giving mission type orders: trust your people to follow through and reach the goal, as they trust you to lead them.

Adaptation and Warfighting

  • Organisms survive by depending on the OODA life cycle and reading the environment correctly.
  • The key to success, progress and successful, creative adaptation is to find and revel in the mismatches or disconnects. It is through these that we are spurred to find a solution, to make improvements, to interact with our environment creatively.
  • Boyd seeks to create organizations and organisms that are adaptive. The very nature of war makes certainty impossible; all actions in war will be based in incomplete, inaccurate or even contradictory information.
  • Trust is an essential trait among leaders.

Links: