Time through the OODA loop

Interesting article in the WSJ today that touches on the role of speed: Companies change their way of thinking (subs. required). One of its messages is that finding and fixing problems quickly is good:

[Intuit founder Scott] Cook said the initiative, termed “Design for Delight,” involves field research with customers to understand their “pain points”—an examination of what frustrates them in their offices and homes.

Intuit staffers then “painstorm” to come up with a variety of solutions to address the problems, and experiment with customers to find the best ones.

Does this mean that time through the OODA loop, which is what this approach describes, is the fundamental driver of business success?

In a sense, it does. If you read the article carefully, or just examine the above closely, you can see that what companies are really getting with their rapid experimentation is better orientation: The more they can create and test their hypotheses, the better understanding they will have.

But it’s what they do with that orientation, compared to what their competitors do, that’s the ultimate driver of success. For one thing,  it’s not as simple as I create and test 5 hypotheses and you only did 3 so I win.  I could create and test a million hypotheses and never come up with e=mc^2. On the other hand, if we’re in the middle of a world war and I succeed in building a workable atomic weapon before you do, I might have a significant strategic advantage.

Toyota, by the way, takes this approach: For the production system, it’s the time span from customer order to customer delivery that’s important, not the time through any particular machine shop or process, per se. And Apple, you’ll note, seems to introduce products at a fairly regular tempo — when they’ve reached insane greatness. What Apple and Toyota will do is use their higher OODA loop speeds to explore a wider range of possibilities, which gives them more options, within the time interval they’ve selected.

3 thoughts on “Time through the OODA loop

  1. Something similar but different that I posted to linkedin Boyd yesterday:
    http://lnkd.in/kj-53F

    About “The wrong type of loop” … “ditch PDCA and embrace OODA”
    http://netfocus.baptie.com/blogs/davidlacey/archive/2012/03/06/the-wrong-type-of-loop.aspx?goback=.gde_1015727_member_121728756

    with some additional discussion:

    What’s the point of a management system?
    http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/david_lacey/2012/04/whats_the_point_of_a_managemen.html

    bowever it somewhat focuses specifically on “speed” in reaction to software (security) problems.

    It is possible to wander off in another direction here … much of the current anti-virus “security” software is focused on signature-based recognition of malware … with quarantine before they get to the computer platform … because current systems have little or no countermeasures to virus and malware. This paradigm results in a constant race (and therefor accentuating tempo and speed) between the attackers (modifying their signatures) and anti-virus venders (having to constantly update their signature recognitions).

    The anti-virus vendors also become dependent on constant revenue stream from their virus signature updates … in a manner similar to Spinney’s “Perpetual War” theme with regard to MICC. One can then make a case that this inhibits the development of more secure computer systems that have better virus & malware resistance.

    The constant race between the attackers and the anti-virus vendors and the need for ever greater speed detracts from the issue that computer systems (connected to the internet) need fundamentally better virus & malware resistance … as opposed to simply virus & malware recognition and quarantine.

    • lhw0,

      Thanks — the conflict (if that’s the word; perhaps “synergy” is better) between security vendors and malware authors is one area in the business world where Boyd’s concept of “operating inside the OODA loop” applies directly. For those readers not already familiar with Boyd’s work, suggest downloading Patterns of Conflict from DNIPOGO and checking out chart 132.

      Col. Martin Hessler: We have done it Conrad! We have done it!
      Cpl. Conrad: Then I was wrong. We have won the war.
      H: No.
      C: You mean we have lost?
      H: No.
      C: I don’t understand. If we have not won, and we have not lost, than what is happening?
      H: The best thing possible is happening – the war will go on.
      C: For how long?
      H: Indefinitely. On, and on, and on!

      The Battle of the Bulge (1965) Hessler, incidentally, was played by the late, great English actor, Robert Shaw, and Conrad was portrayed by the German actor Hans Christian Blech, whose facial scar was actually a result of service on the Eastern Front. The score, by the English composer, Benjamin Frankel, is one of my favorites.

  2. Followup prompted by a COIN item today. I would claim that it would help to understand the other side. Insurgents face total obliteration in traditional field of combat, so what can they do to nullify the vastly superior forces arrayed against them. Understanding that insurgents objectives are to move the conflict to area where they have less disadvantage. Missing is Boyd’s Energy/Maneuverability theory (profile/characterize advantages/disadvantages of different jet fighters, initially dogfight tactics, you want to operate in the envelope where you have the advantage and they have the disadvantage, but later becomes fundamental part of fighter plane design) … applied to other areas of conflict. My perspective is more from computer security where most countermeasures are extremely adhoc without any understanding of fundamental attacks and vulnerabilities.

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