OODA Loop Offers a Solid Framework for Agile, Fast-Moving Companies


June 12, 2020

When I left my partner position at a PE fund to start BluWave, I sought an operating framework to help us build the company in an agile and customer-centric way. I embraced a model conceived by Air Force Colonel John Boyd called the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act). This framework has been extremely helpful as we’ve grown to serving more than 350 PE funds in a short period of time. Now more than ever, we have found it to be invaluable as we navigate the uncertain world that has emerged since COVID arrived. Here’s how you can use the OODA loop in your business: 

Observe:
Get actionable data. One relatively inexpensive approach to gathering the right information is the use of a PE-grade voice of the customer firm to actively talk with your customers. As the economy reopens, ask your customers about the progress of their recovery and what products you should lead with. It’s amazing what customers will tell you if you ask. It’s also crucial to clean your data – we’re equipping portcos with interim data-oriented financial planning and analysis teams that can conduct a sprint in order to make data actionable. 

Orient:
Synthesize your observations. Many portcos we support are using PE market due diligence groups to assess competitive landscapes and propose potential courses of action. This is a way to repurpose an existing tool to improve probabilities of success and ROI. We’re also helping a lot of companies rapidly deploy data integration, visualization, and analytical resources to make informed decisions. If you haven’t used these resources yet, now is the time.  

Decide:
This is up to you and your team. The only advice I have here is to get buy-in from your team, as well as your board (for the bigger stuff). This is also a great time to question sacred cows, take a close look at SKUs, make your operations more efficient, etc. Never waste a crisis. 

Act:
It’s time to get going. After collecting hard data, forming conclusions about it, and making decisions with your team, now is the time to make a move. This is where it’s essential to be as adaptable as possible – the road back to Rome is not going to be straight. Be as justintime with your resources as possible.  It’s a great time to start using variable resources (aka the “alternative workforce”) to get things done more efficiently and effectively. 

Right after you act, immediately begin the OODA loop again. The most successful companies will be the ones that are agile and diligent during this chaotic and unpredictable time.