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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Executing the Commander's Intent -- Boyd's OODA -- Interesting, in both Marc's comment to yesterday's item on Commander's Intent, as well as in a link in an email response solicited from my Air Force friend, references were made to John Boyd and his concept of "maneuver warfare." At the heart of Boyd's approach is the OODA Loop -- Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (and then Observe again...). From the linked Air Force Major's paper (written by Jeffery L. Cowan as a thesis at the Marine Corp University)...
"...Important to comprehending the OODA loop is an understanding of its components. The first element, (O)bservation, is the process of taking in and absorbing one's environment. This view would be entirely empirical if the observer could guarantee the reliability and objectivity of the sensors viewing the environment. The second element, (O)rientation, is the most important step in the loop. It is the most easily corruptible of the four steps. Orientation requires the observer to yield to frail human qualities, such as culture, heritage, and, most importantly, previous experience. This is one place in the cycle where there is feedback from previous evolutions. Orientation may be drastically altered based on the experience of success or failure from a proceeding evolution. The third element, (D)eciding, is the cognitive process of selecting a course of action among the options that present themselves from the observation and orientation portions. As Boyd wrote, "In short we engage in a complex process of analysis and synthesis before selecting a course of action ? We assess a variety of competing, independent channels of information from a variety of domains to cope with the particular circumstance which confronts us." The final element, (A)ction, is simply doing the course of action selected in the decision portion of the cycle; however, in some instances it is the most difficult to implement..."
All this is more than applicable to basic management, as well as to project management, especially in an environment of changing circumstances. My friend Tony Rizzo, who I have often mentioned as the person at the "I wish he had a blog" list, put OODA into perspective for multi-project management in a Management Roundtable Newsletter article (Scroll down to "Article 3."). In the article, Tony also makes a case for the synergies between a maneuver warfare approach to information gathering for product development and the TOC Multi-Project Management Methodology to enable rapid response/action.

Back to the Air Force article...
"Colonel Boyd described the ultimate objective of using a superior tempo driven system as the break down of the enemy. To do this one must "exploit operations and weapons that: generate a rapidly changing environment ? and inhibit an adversary's capacity to adapt to such an environment." Utilizing those actions paralyzes the adversary's mechanism for dealing with his foe's increased tempo. The goal of the process can be easily stated: "simultaneously compress own time and stretch-out adversary time to generate a favorable mismatch in time/ability to shape and adapt to change.""
The objective of TOC Multi-Project Management is just maximize the throughput of projects through the organizational system deployed to deliver them. It's not enough for small features of single projects to be delivered quickly to keep the competition off balance, but rather, it requires a continuous flow of disruptive innovation to do so.

While touching on the combined subjects of TOC (what to change - to what to change to - how to make the change happen) and maneuver warfare (observe - orient - decide - act), there is also a good article, originally published in the monthly magazine of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, entitled The Transformation Battlefield - Achieving Organizational Change with Corporate Physics (pdf download). It points out that the ability to orient -- the most easily fumbled piece of Boyd's loop; the piece most susceptible to erroneous assumptions and paradigms -- is enhanced with awareness and understanding of the basic system that you are working in. The easiest route to that understanding is through awareness of the system's constraint and how one interacts with it and with the strategies and tactics to exploit it.

[Later...Since I'm pointing to their site for the pdf above, it's only polite that I should point y'all to some other good stuff on Boyd and maneuver warfare applied to business at the Kettle Creek site. Thanks for the pointer, Ken.]

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