A Model for Strategic Thinking

In their recent book, That Used to Be Us, Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum describe a strategic method that I thought might have some application to businesses and HR departments. The United States Air Force designed a strategic doctrine called the OODA loop. It stands for “observe, orient, decide, act.” It was used by pilots for dogfights. Its originator John Boyd, argued that if your OODA loop was faster than your opponent’s you would win the dogfight.
The OODA method can be adapted to a number of situations. Team sports can take great advantage of the OODA loop. What made Michael Jordan,  Bart Starr, or Pele’ as great as they were was that their OODA loop capability was better than others.
In business situations “decision makers gather information (observe), form hypotheses about customer activity and the intentions of competitors (orient), make decisions, and act on them. The cycle is repeated continuously. The aggressive and conscious application of the process gives a business advantage over a competitor who is merely reacting to conditions as they occur, or has poor awareness of the situation.” It can be a very effective technique but it takes practice and mental focus.
In handling people situations HR could learn some lessons from the OODA technique. But it requires an understanding of the many things that SHRM says is a skill of all good strategic HR. That is environmental scanning. The more you understand what is happening in society, technology, the environment, the economy, and politics or legal environment the better you will be able to speed up your OODA loop.

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