Aspiring leaders typically concentrate on history and case studies, creating theories of success and failure in their disciplines. This is fine but won’t produce great practitioners in either war or business. As the German General Hermann Balck once told Boyd, “The training of the infantryman can never be too many sided.” Miyamoto Musashi in 1645 wrote that samurai (much less top-level commanders) should study the arts and sciences and master fields other than their own. And this was just to keep them from getting hacked to bits. And then there’s Steve Jobs with his famous calligraphy course and Zen training. Continue reading
Webinar on Business Agility
You can watch (or listen to the podcast) here: http://catalyzingbusinessagility.com/community/#CR
Enjoy, and check out some of their other guests on that page.
Chuck Spinney has made a tweak to Evolutionary Epistemology, his look into Boyd’s process of destruction and creation. If you’ve ever been put off by the density of Boyd’s paper, start here (download from our Articles page).
In particular, he added one more slide, Boyd’s “Revelation.” He explained: “As you know the Revelation was produced by Boyd at the completion of all his efforts … it is a great slide to end my brief.”
I agree. But on first reading, it may seem obvious, even trite. There’s more here, though, than meets the eye. You might try treating it like a Zen koan: What does he mean by “loser”? Somebody who loses all the time? Fifty-one percent? Only the decisive battle? Someone who quits? Does this apply to other forms of conflict, like business, where not every product or service is going to be successful? Would it be more accurate to describe a winner as someone — individual or group — who can build better snowmobiles than the competition? Seems reasonable, but it’s not what Boyd wrote. That, of course doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.
And what about that term “appropriate?” According to the “Revelation,” losers can’t build snowmobiles at all, but winners not only have to build them but also employ them “appropriately.” Again, it seems obvious that to succeed, you have to use the thing you built, and why would you employ it inappropriately? Is Boyd driving at anything profound, or even useful, here?
Every word in the “Revelation” was pondered and debated, including many of the topics raised above, in those legendary phone calls Coram describes. What you see is what came out.
While we’re on the subject of winners and losers, you might compare the “Revelation” to The Essence of Winning and Losing (1996).
Not John Boyd
But a good video, nonetheless.
Here’s Prof. Daniel Bonevac giving an introductory lecture on the OODA loop:
Professor Bonevac is a member of, and was formerly chair of, the Philosophy Department at the University of Texas. I don’t know when this lecture was given, but the video was posted in April of this year. One of the interesting things about it is that Professor Bonevac is teaching a class on Organizational Ethics.
With a name like OODA
Here’s an interesting paper on uses of OODA loops in TPRM. For the uninitiated, that’s “third party risk management.”
As one of the aforementioned unenlightened, I had to look it up. Here, for example, is an introduction by PWC Canada. I think the basic idea is that risk taken on by your suppliers and sub-contractors flows to you, but it’s your name and reputation on the final product. So how do you manage this “third-party” risk and still achieve the benefits?
Bob Maley, former Global Head, Third Party Security and Inspections, PayPal, Inc.; Co-Chair, Continuous Monitoring Working Group of Shared Assessments (managed by the Santa Fe Group), recently wrote a white paper for his working group. You have to love the title, “Innovations in third-party continuous monitoring: With a name like OODA, how hard can it be? (1.1 MB PDF)
It can be a little slow going for people not in that field, but I think you’ll find interesting applications of the OODA “Loop” concept that may provide ideas for your snowmobiles.
Zen and the Art of Business Books
This is Tokyo, circa 1832. The print is “Nihonbashi no hakuu” by the Ukiyo-e master Andō Hiroshige. Many years ago, my wife found a copy in a consignment store in Atlanta. I don’t remember what she paid for it, but she assures me that framing it cost many times the purchase price. Since we’ve been here in South Carolina, we’ve had it reframed to show off the stamps and writing around the borders.
I’ve spent many hours contemplating this scene. The simplicity, the attention to details, the overall composition, the colors and shading — they bring out a spectrum of emotions that I find very satisfying. The Japanese have terms for this effect. You may be familiar with wabi sabi or shibui, but there are a number of others that in English we sometimes group together as a “Zen aesthetic.” It’s something that I truly wish I knew more about.
Some of these same emotions accompanied the Japanese edition of Certain to Win when I unwrapped it a few days ago. This is a business book, but the attention to detail, the quality of the binding, the columns of kanji characters on the pages, even the feel and smell of the paper mark it as a minor work of art (OK, I may be a little prejudiced).
I offer this as an example of cheng / chi: I got what I expected, which isn’t surprising because I’ve been involved with the translation project since it started in June. But the final product still exuded a “Wow!” factor that I wasn’t expecting. Japanese has a phase for this, too: miryoku teki hinsihtsu, quality that delights the customer so much that they have to have it. Just a thought, but you might buy a copy if only for the artistic merit of the piece, even if you don’t speak Japanese.
In addition to OODA Loop, I’ve just received a couple of other books concerning Japanese culture and strategy that I’ll feature here in the next few days. Boyd would have liked them both.
As for the print, you can download a high resolution copy from the Library of Congress’s collection of 2,500 such prints. And, yes, you can also download The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.
Samhandling: Enabling Auftragstaktik
Military Strategies for Samhandling in Unforeseen Situations – A Historical Perspective,
do Cdr Tommy Krabberød, Ph.D., and Dr. Jan O. Jacobsen,
Royal Norwegian Naval Academy
Chapter 25 in Interaction: ‘Samhandling’ Under Risk, A step ahead of the unforeseen, Glenn-Egil Torgersen, Ed., Oslo, NO: Cappelen Damm Akademisk, 2018, pp. 467-480.
I know what you’re thinking: OMG! Another post on Auftragstaktik! Just kill me now.
I am assuming that most of my readers are familiar with Auftragstaktik (if not, search this site or Google the term). Even if you are, or perhaps especially, I think you’ll find Krabberød and Jacobsen’s paper well worth your time.
New course on implementation from LeanKanban University
LeanKanban University has announced their newest course, Fit for Purpose, based on the book co-authored by David J. Anderson. The announcement describes the course this way:
This 2-day class will offer you significant new insights into how to optimize the effectiveness of your business, to produce fit-for-purpose products and services that delight your customers, making them loyal to your brand and increasing your share, revenues and margins, and to evaluate depth of Kanban implementations.
In Boyd’s terminology, “delight your customers, making them loyal to your brand and increasing your share, revenues and margins” is the Schwerpunkt. Everything else you do must support this objective, because if you can’t do this, then everything else you do is waste.
The philosophy of Fit for Purpose rests on the same foundation as other “lean” methodologies, such as the Toyota Production and Development Systems, and, for that matter, as the USMC doctrine of maneuver warfare (a subject I treat in some detail in Certain to Win). This foundation sometimes goes by the acronym “EBFAS,” which is somewhat explained in an earlier post. It turns out that companies that use this foundation — whether they got the ideas from Boyd or from other authors (e.g., Stalk & Hout, Tom Peters, Stephen Bungay) or discovered them on their own (Toyota & probably Apple) — have extraordinary capabilities to delight customers and so shape the marketplace.
I should confess to being less than unbiased. I know David Anderson, have taught in a couple of his courses, reviewed the book Fit for Purpose, and am mentioned in it. Even so, I highly recommend this course no matter what field or industry you’re in. It’s probably as close to a Boyd Symposium as we’ll get this year.
LeanKanban University has announced four sessions of Fit for Purpose during the first half of the year: February 25-26 and May 23-24 in Bilbao, Spain, April 8-9 in Hamburg, and May 20-21 in Seattle. Here’s a link to the schedule for all their leadership / management courses.
Empathy in Orientation
I tweeted a link to a Forbes article on empathy this morning, “Want more innovative solutions? Start with empathy.” by Tracy Bower.
Boyd explained his notion of orientation on chart 15 of Organic Design (available from the Articles link, above):
Orientation is an interactive process of many-sided implicit cross-referencing projections, empathies, correlations, and rejections that is shaped by and shapes the interplay of genetic heritage, cultural tradition, previous experiences, and unfolding circumstances.
I don’t recall any place where he defined “empathies,” or, for that matter, “empathy,” much less “projections,” “correlations,” or “rejections.” These terms appear out of the ether, right after this chart:
where he proclaims an “Insight” that:
Interactions, as shown, represent a many-sided implicit cross-referencing process of projection, empathy, correlation, and rejection. (OD, 11)
If you really want to have some fun, try briefing these two charts sometime.
Then, in his very last briefing, The Essence of Winning and Losing (also in Articles), he drew his infamous OODA “loop” sketch (his words), below which he recorded another “Insight”:
Also note how the entire “loop” (not just orientation) is an ongoing many-sided implicit cross-referencing process of projection, empathy, correlation, and rejection.
The Zen of Boyd? I don’t know. Perhaps something to ponder. For example, if you squint hard at chart 10, are there other ways you could characterize these “interactions”? And how is the Stuka pilot Hans Rudel an interaction? Can you come up with some more relevant interactions to make a similar point about orientation?
Creating mission-oriented leaders
Don’t you want your organization to run better? Of course you do: Get rid of the office politics, cliques, backstabbing, passive aggression — morale goes up, blood pressure goes down, objectives are routinely exceeded, competitors / opponents get trounced. Hence, the size of modern CEO offices, which need to be that big to hold all the books on how to actually do it.
Among the many approaches, “agility” proposes to use time to shape the competitive environment, and, if necessary, react to changes before they become fatal. Nestled within the agile approaches, there is a school that insists the best way to do this is to fire up creativity and initiative throughout the organization and harmonize them to accomplish the objectives of the organization. Note that “throughout” includes everybody from new hires to the aforementioned CEO.
Boyd’s philosophy is obviously in this category. He proposed an organizational climate, often known by the acronym EBFAS,* whose purpose was to produce organizations that could shape, reorient to, and exploit rapidly changing situations. Boyd regarded conflict as characterized by deception, surprise, ambiguity, stress and threat, which can lead to fear, mistrust, and a breakdown of cohesion. “Reorient to” is a way of saying that you understand such situations better than your opponents. “Rapidly” implies that given time, your opponents will figure these things out; don’t give them the time.
The “E” in EBFAS stands for Einheit, for which Boyd adopted the English “mutual trust.” It is fundamental, so organizational cultures that focus on building mutual trust are sometimes called “trust based.” Of the other letters, perhaps the best known is “A” for another German word, Auftragstaktik, often translated as “mission command.” It has become something of a sub-genre in management literature.**
Last month, I featured an article by Don Vandergriff on Auftragstaktik, where he described the origins of the concept and why high performing organizations use it.
Don has now followed up with a well-documented piece on how to train people for Auftragstaktik . He describes an emerging methodology within the Army, Adaptive Leader Soldier Training and Education (ALSTE), and an implementation, the Army Reconnaissance Course, that have proven to develop leaders who can excel under the philosophy of mission command. These programs reflect initiatives Don has been working on for years and documented as far back as Raising the Bar (2006).
*I’ve done several posts on EBFAS — please use the search feature in the right column if you’re interested.
**For an in-depth look at Auftragstaktik, I can recommend Stephen Bungay’s The Art of Action and Don’s recent book on Mission Command.
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