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Thread: OODA Rethought

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    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Default OODA Rethought

    Had an interesting seminar with Don Vandergriff this morning and thought of the following question:

    Does OODA change in a COIN environment or advisory role through a language barrier? Do the O's transpose each other? Does it morph into something else; like Orient-Observe-Reorient-catalog-Decide-Act?
    Last edited by RTK; 05-23-2008 at 12:45 AM.
    Example is better than precept.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default OODA thunk it?

    You made my head hurt. I gotta go get a bourbon and think about that one...

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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    Had an interesting seminar with Don Vandergriff this morning and thought of the following question:

    Does OODA change in a COIN environment or advisory role through a language barrier? Do the O's transpose each other? Does it morph into something else; like Orient-Observe-Reorient-catalog-Decide-Act?
    Hey Ryan !
    As both a training development manager and having served in various advisory capacities with both language and cultural barriers, Orient-Observe-Reorient-Engage works best for me. The trouble with Orient (requiring the need for Reorient) is a Western mind set... the tool kit we're sent to the field with worked well in the classroom, but theoretical approaches are barely adequate and will never replace good ol' experience.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post

    Does OODA change in a COIN environment or advisory role through a language barrier? Do the O's transpose each other? Does it morph into something else; like Orient-Observe-Reorient-catalog-Decide-Act?
    If it does then you shouldn't be using it. Having discussed it face to face with Bill Lind, I am as sceptical as ever. OODA is not Core Functions. That's a weakness and I have yet to see why anyone would teach it. I see lots of the examples of OODA use but none validate it is a useful process.

    Question: How does understanding the OODA loop make you a better chess player or fox hunter?
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    Default OODA is for fighter pilots

    Except at the most tactical, trivial level, the OODA loop is not a useful tool in wars such as we are fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq. Things move at such a glacial pace, for one thing. For another, the successful practitioner needs to learn to ignore much of the white noise generated by an insurgency. Trying to orient or reorient every time you receive a stimulus may seem wise, but it actually only leads to friction, exhaustion, inconsistency, and failure.

    A very wise commander once told us planners our jobs was to reduce the number of decisions he had to make during an operation.

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    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default Hmmmm..... Interesting thought and interesting quote

    Just a couple of days ago, I was sitting with a State Department (S/CRS) Planner discussing some new approaches they are considering/trying to find money to field. These included modular planning teams, HN Gov/t embeds, and PRT like organizations for the "long haul". All interesting but not relevant, what was relevant was an approach to the planning process that they intend to employ...

    one in which no one (but the plan) is in charge and that it will be a self-adjusting mechanism amongst a team of peers (I think I got that mostly right). Well you can imagine my head spinning (think Linda Blair), as I struggled to keep a straight face and open mind. Well can't say that at that moment either I or my uniformed partners were able to wrap our minds around that little State Department "pearl".

    But as I considered it further.... So long as the plan wasn't botched from the beginning (not perfect just good), then this might actually be a stroke of brilliance. The State Department contribution is by nature long-term (10-40 years). Their plan more than any other could use a little built-in bureaucratic non-sense to keep them from chasing their tail with every change in the wind direction. Having an engineered impediment to deviations is not only OK, but desired.

    Now I'd sure like to see one of those good enough, self-syncronizing plans! Never quite crossed that threshold except in a game of monopoly.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default OODA = Boyd

    Leading to the obvious point is that everyone is not a John Boyd -- or a fighter pilot -- and what works for one guy in one place may not be best for everyone everywhere.

    Boyd was an intuitive fighter jock. Military forces tend to have two types of people who fight, deliberate and intuitive. Intuitive fighters are born, not made. The good news is that very effective deliberate fighters at all levels can be made through decent education and / or training. The US Army for many reasons and the Marines to an only slightly lesser extent encourage a deliberate approach to combat, thus the deliberate guys far outnumber the intuitive guys. My personal belief is that intuitive is better but I understand and accept the need for the deliberate types (and admit they're beneficial in slowing the intuitive types down from time to time ).

    The problem is that since most males are competitive, they'll opt to try anything that might give them an edge in any competition. This tacitly encourages the adoption of the latest fads -- and 'techniques' or methods -- and that engenders the use of said ideas. The intuitive guy will very quickly accept, modify and / or reject what doesn't work; it takes the deliberate type more time (and frequently, effort) to do that, sometimes far longer, individual dependent. Occasionally a mediocre idea will become so embedded in some minds that it cannot be dismissed...

    The OODA syndrome is an example of this. Widely adapted and adopted because it makes sense. It's also popular because most people instinctively actually do that sort of assessment in any new situation, perhaps with different words in a different order -- if they even think of it that way. Boyd just codified and simplified it for popular consumption. It is of some value but it is emphatically not a panacea or the only way to operate. Everyone cannot apply the facets in that sequence in all circumstances and most people will vary on the speed at which they can apply the process. Thus, I submit it's a good theory, worth knowing and understanding but it is not and should not be a guiding principle. I think the OODA process and variations should be taught as A way to assess and operate but it should be emphasized that it is not a dictated methodology and alternatives should also be discussed.

    Having advised elements in two Armies in the far east and mideast and having done the COIN thing on three continents, I can say that I've used variations on the theme countless times -- even before Boyd enunciated it. Thus to RTK's good question, in all seriousness and with absolutely no sarcasm, I come up with:

    - It depends on the situation.

    - It is up to the individual to develop a personal view or method of the application.

    - Be careful what you codify, it may become dogma.

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    Default OODA in battlefield prep?

    Ken White is correct, not everyone can be John Boyd. Maybe OODA is more useful in allowing a staff to assist in battlefield prep vs a squad leader or PL in contact.

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    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post

    Question: How does understanding the OODA loop make you a better chess player or fox hunter?
    I'm interested in the answer to this one.

    I'm not a Boyd fan or proponent of OODA. I threw that out there as a "what if" more than anything. I, like many of you, don't think OODA has any place within the tactical level on the ground. It's been a while since I was on here a bunch and figured to dive back into the pool with a cannonball on this.

    I like the answers.
    Example is better than precept.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Don't really care about foxhunting, but chess is another matter.

    I think OODA was just Boyd trying to apply what he knew about air combat to every possible tactical situation...which means there are many instances and circumstances where it doesn't work. In other instances it's just putting a fancy title on something that people have been doing more or less automatically for some time. A good chess player can see moves ahead...in essence (to use Boydian speak) getting inside his opponent's OODA loop by anticipating counters to his moves and then planning his own counters to those counters or setting traps based on those possible counters. Understanding OODA stuff isn't going to make you a better chess player in and of itself, but good chess players already do a version of OODA (as do most wargamers), and this is especially noticeable in timed games. With the added (if somewhat artificial) time limit component added, the player who can get inside the strategy of his opponent and either break it or bend it in a favorable direction, and can do so faster than his opponent, has a great advantage.

    Standard wargamers also do this sort of thing, although here it's often a matter of throwing an opponent off balance by using either space (if possible) or multiple thrusts to confuse a defense. It can be a bit harder here (at least in non-blind games) because everything's on the table and in plain view (and some of the restrictions in chess are missing), but good players still tend to move in that direction.

    I'm not saying that all this is Boydian OODA stuff at its finest (since I tend to agree that pure OODA may only be possible in air combat...and even then I have some doubts), but it is certainly an application of some (or most) of the OODA elements.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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    Default SIPDE vs OODA

    Hi Ryan, a long time ago they used to teach Police Officers an acronym for pursuit driving called SIPDE. S stands for Scan/Search, I stands for Identify, P stands for Predict, D stands for Decide, E stands for Execute/Evade. I always thought that might be better than OODA. OODA seems to leave to much out just be fast??? To me fast dosen't help if you are wrong. My early morning thoughts anyway. Slap


    PS glad you are back.
    Last edited by slapout9; 05-24-2008 at 12:24 PM. Reason: add stuff

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Hi Ryan, a long time ago they used to teach Police Officers an acronym for pursuit driving called SIPDE. S stands for Scan/Search, I stands for Identify, P stands for Predict, D stands for Decide, E stands for Execute/Evade. I always thought that might be better than OODA. OODA seems to leave to much out just be fast??? To me fast dosen't help if you are wrong. My early morning thoughts anyway. Slap
    PS glad you are back.
    Please excuse the BLOG SPAM but here is an article I wrote back the early 1990s about SIPDE and SPA when I was teaching traffic safety. It is written for motorcycle riders but all of the mechanics are there.

    LINK
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hacksaw View Post
    Just a couple of days ago, I was sitting with a State Department (S/CRS) Planner discussing some new approaches they are considering/trying to find money to field. These included modular planning teams, HN Gov/t embeds, and PRT like organizations for the "long haul". All interesting but not relevant, what was relevant was an approach to the planning process that they intend to employ...

    one in which no one (but the plan) is in charge and that it will be a self-adjusting mechanism amongst a team of peers (I think I got that mostly right). Well you can imagine my head spinning (think Linda Blair), as I struggled to keep a straight face and open mind. Well can't say that at that moment either I or my uniformed partners were able to wrap our minds around that little State Department "pearl".

    But as I considered it further.... So long as the plan wasn't botched from the beginning (not perfect just good), then this might actually be a stroke of brilliance. The State Department contribution is by nature long-term (10-40 years). Their plan more than any other could use a little built-in bureaucratic non-sense to keep them from chasing their tail with every change in the wind direction. Having an engineered impediment to deviations is not only OK, but desired.

    Now I'd sure like to see one of those good enough, self-syncronizing plans! Never quite crossed that threshold except in a game of monopoly.

    Live well and row...
    I always have to remember when dealing with folks from DoS that the metrics they use for success is "dollars spent."

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Don't really care about foxhunting, but chess is another matter.
    Fox hunting is essential experience if one finds oneself hunting peasants, villains and poachers!


    Standard wargamers also do this sort of thing, although here it's often a matter of throwing an opponent off balance by using either space (if possible) or multiple thrusts to confuse a defense. It can be a bit harder here (at least in non-blind games) because everything's on the table and in plain view (and some of the restrictions in chess are missing), but good players still tend to move in that direction.
    As a war gamer myself, I just see OODA as a description of one possible process. Wrong observation and all falls down. As it does with one wrong action and the process does not give you any indicators as to how to judge your "orientation" or understanding. It only seems to explain why smart people do good things. It does not help train soldiers or officers that I can see.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Default SPA, Intuition, & IPB

    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    Please excuse the BLOG SPAM but here is an article I wrote back the early 1990s about SIPDE and SPA when I was teaching traffic safety. It is written for motorcycle riders but all of the mechanics are there.

    LINK
    Sam,

    I took the MSF course and don't remember the acronyms taught but SPA (Search, Predict, Act) is easy to remember and makes intuitive sense (I enjoyed your blog article). I call it 'spider sense' in that most times I am not thinking, instead while riding I am usually in the 'zone' so when my spider sense goes off it's time to act (in 70K miles I have failed to keep the rubber side down once and fortunately God was kind to me on that one). In the field things are the same, often times I don't know the reason why right away I just know that things are 'off' and it's time to act right now. What I do find helpful is IPB = Intelligence Prep of the Battlefield = know all about Dodge before entering Dodge and know how to exit Dodge = intel drives maneuver. The other thing I find helpful is having some young soldiers on my team, their reaction times are often better than mine while I like to think that my experience/education is better than theirs...thus the whole team work thing.

    Regards,

    Steve
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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    The original IPDE acronym was first taught back in the 1950s traffic education. I believe the author that came up with it was Dr. White (I'd have to go back and check). Jeff Cooper used a version of it when he did his whole "code" thing. Code white, code red, etc.. when attempting to keep from being code white when you should be more aware. As Slapout mentioned a version of SIPDE is used for EVOC, and I have even ran across a version of it used for scout training in the Marine Corps.
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    As a war gamer myself, I just see OODA as a description of one possible process. Wrong observation and all falls down. As it does with one wrong action and the process does not give you any indicators as to how to judge your "orientation" or understanding. It only seems to explain why smart people do good things. It does not help train soldiers or officers that I can see.
    You'll also notice in my reply that I said pretty much the same thing.
    I'm not saying that all this is Boydian OODA stuff at its finest (since I tend to agree that pure OODA may only be possible in air combat...and even then I have some doubts), but it is certainly an application of some (or most) of the OODA elements.
    Elements of OODA can be useful for training, especially if you use it as a stepping stone to further discussion and/or analysis. It isn't the "one ring" of training by any means. It is A process, but not THE process, and good training presents it as such. If it gives someone a starting point, even to question its validity, then it's helped train someone. You may not like it, and that's fine. I'm not a convert to OODA or 4GW stuff, but I do see where discussion of it is helpful and positive...so long as it's presented as one alternative among many.
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    Council Member zenpundit's Avatar
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    Default A few brief comments on OODA

    Hi Wilf,

    You wrote:

    As a war gamer myself, I just see OODA as a description of one possible process.
    The OODA Loop is a model of cognitive processing, there are indeed many other models. Boyd's OODA fits well with assumptions of (the entirely unrelated) Dual Processing theory in cognitive psychology. It also fits with some models relating to long term memory function.

    Wrong observation and all falls down.
    I think Boyd would have agreed. Poor perceptions equate to faulty assumptions which could then lead to poor decisions.

    As it does with one wrong action and the process does not give you any indicators as to how to judge your "orientation" or understanding.
    Disagree here. Wrong actions are learning experiences, though in war sometimes these experiences are not survivable ones. When your actions do not lead to the results that your assumptions led you to expect, it's time to re-check your premises and your observations.

    It only seems to explain why smart people do good things. It does not help train soldiers or officers that I can see.
    It can also explain why inobservant, highly ideological or just plain dumb people do foolish things.

    As for training, OODA is useful as a teaching tool to get people to start to pay attention to their own thinking (metacognition) and the thinking of others. Why do we have the preconceived notions that we do ? Why are we ignoring inconvenient facts staring us in the face?

    Can you go through OODA as a conscious, step by step process ? Sure, if you have the luxury of time for calm reflection but your brain most likely does the OODA steps with a high degree of fast-processing automaticity.

    The OODA Loop is a map, not the territory.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zenpundit View Post
    @ Why do we have the preconceived notions that we do ? Why are we ignoring inconvenient facts staring us in the face?

    @ Can you go through OODA as a conscious, step by step process ? Sure, if you have the luxury of time for calm reflection but your brain most likely does the OODA steps with a high degree of fast-processing
    @ I'd say that's cognitive dissonance and I'd go with Festinger on that. Sure we can use OODA to show with the Army brought an bad piece of equipment, or did something dumb, but why use OODA? What does it tell us that normal observation and use of empirical evidence does not? If is a good analytical tool?

    @ The problem is People use OODA as doctrine. I had a UK one-star try and tell me how his formation planning cycle was a 24hr OODA loop. - so he patently didn't understand it. More to the point, and IMO, the idea that you can be "inside the other guys OODA loop" is neither useful or correct. It implies that speed is an end in itself and this is wholly false. Speed only serves your purpose in that it creates surprise. Speed of process is merely that. Speed of bad process creates defeat. If you learn and adapt faster, then great, but you must not die while doing it.

    If you are telling me that the OODA loop is just one of many loops used to describe various processes then OK, but it is not the Core Functions, which is how people want to try and use it, and no where near as inherent to true military doctrine.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    I considered the OODA loop as a reminder for everyone in uniform about the importance of speed or other actions than merely movement, agility, adapting to circumstances and the ability to perform better than an adversary by doing so. Plus some minor ideas.

    You can learn quite the same of some martial arts.
    (Quick reaction, counter attack), cause him to lose stability, exploit the imbalance.

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