Ooda loop

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Remember kids, remove the muda from your OODA.
Dan North to Speed up Observe-Orient-Decide-Act cycle to outperform your rivals.

Even with small forces you can succeed by presenting others with a sudden, unexpected change or a series of changes because the thing you are tackling cannot adjust to the changes in a timely manner. Generally, success comes at relatively small cost.

Research on this topic has led to the Boyd theory, which states that conflict may be viewed as time-competitive cycles of observation-orientation-decision-action (OODA).

  1. Observe—Observe yourself, your surroundings, your goal. In military tactics, this equates to adoption of a hunting instinct: searching; actively looking; hunting for the enemy; and seeing what he is doing or is about to do. It also includes anticipating the enemy’s next moves—getting inside his mind.
  2. Orient—Based upon observations, orient yourself to the situation. That is, produce a mental image of the situation and gain situational awareness. This awareness becomes the foundation on which to erect a plan. Generally, the better the orientation, the better the plan.
  3. Decide—Based upon this orientation, you decide upon a course of action. The decision is developed into a plan that can be disseminated among units and individuals closer to the action for their planning and execution.
  4. Act—Act, put the decision into effect. In tactics this is the execution phase where the decision, or plan, is implemented. Since this action has changed the situation, again observe, and begin the cycle anew.

The ooda loop is a tactic used within a plastic plan.

In order to act consistently faster than the other, it is necessary to do more than move quickly. It is also necessary to make rapid transitions from one action to another.

The important thing to remember is that transitions produce friction. Reduction of friction minimizes the loss of tempo that the friction generates at the point of transition. 'If you can make transitions faster and more smoothly than another, you have greater relative speed.

In the 18th century, the importance of fast transitions (sometimes called agility) was displayed when shifting from column formation into line. If an army could not rapidly deploy into line and consequently was engaged while still in column, it was often beaten. Much drill was devoted to practicing this difficult transition so that it could be accomplished rapidly in combat. Today we develop proficiencies in battle drills and immediate-action drills that allow units to rapidly transition from one formation to another without pausing.

It is important to be able to effect rapid changes in organization as well. Being quick to effect required changes in task organization based on a rapidly changing situation increases agility and decreases reaction times. Drills and rehearsals can be conducted to smooth out procedures for changing organization rapidly. The faster you can transition, the more effective your force becomes.

The place in time and space where transitions occur can be called a friction point. Friction points commonly encountered in tactics include movement from an assembly area to attack; from patrol movement formation to ambush posture; from defensive posture to attack; from one maneuver to another, and so forth. The transition involves simply positional changes and drills, but also changes of attitude in the minds. You must shift your mental focus from one movement to another.

A modern example of the importance of fast transitions comes from aerial combat. In the Korean War, American aviators achieved a high kill ratio of about 10:1 over their North Korean and Chinese opponents. At first glance, this is somewhat surprising. The main enemy fighter, the MiG-15, was superior to the American F-86 in a number of key respects. It could climb and accelerate faster, and it had a better sustained turn rate. The F-86, however, was superior to the MiG in two critical, though less obvious, respects. First, because it had high-powered hydraulic controls, the F-86 could shift from one maneuver to another faster than the MiG. Second, because of its bubble canopy, the F-86 pilot had better visibility. The F-86’s better field of view provided better situational awareness and also contributed to fast transitions because it allowed its pilot to understand changing situations more quickly.

Boyd’s cycle is also known as the ooda loop.


  • MCDP 1-3 Tactics, page 68.
  • Don Reinertsen’s LLSC 2012 talk