Variations of the OODA Loop 1, Introduction

Note: This is a selection from Variations of the OODA Loop, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

The U.S. Marine Corps in their discussion of strategy,1 the U.S. Navy with information operations,2 and commentators discussing linguistics3 all mention the OODA Loop. Yet descriptions of the OODA loop can be as vague as

A top-level description of human behaviour [sic] in a tactical setting should include the processes involved in developing situation awareness, making decisions, then acting in accordance with a set of goals. Almost any discussion of military doctrine now includes the ‘OODA loop’ – Observe, Orient, Decide and Act (attributed to US Air Force pilot John Boyd). 4

Described in general terms in such varying publications as American Speech,5 International Affairs,6 The Journal of Military History7, The Journal of the Operational Research Society,8 and others,9 10 11 it is rarely precisely described. There are many different “OODA Loops,” devised by different authors at different times, that lend themselves to different sorts of analysis. They can be created to advocate some technique12 13 14 or technology,15 or as a starting point in decision support systems,16 simulation,17 18 19 20 or visualization.21 Authors should be familiar at least with the version that they are using, if not alternate systems, in order to fully comprehend their own writings and to write persuasively for those who may have encountered other OODA Loops.

This series will focus on three classes of OODA Loops: Boydian, Pseudo-Boydian, and Post-Boydian. Boydian OODA Loops are those created by John Boyd, the man who created the OODA loops but published little.22 Pseudo-Boydian loops are the reverse: they purport to be created by John Boyd yet contain substantive variations. Post-Boydian loops are written with a Boydian loop in mind, but ultimately reject the Boydian system to create something newer.

This article is not an exhaustive list of all the OODA loops “in the wild.” However, by using published journal articles, conference articles, monographs, graduate theses, and blogs, it attempts to capture as many as possible.

Variations of the OODA Loop, a tdaxp series:
Variations of the OODA Loop 1: Introduction
Variations of the OODA Loop 2: The Naive Boydian Loop
Variations of the OODA Loop 3: The Sophisticated Boydian Loop
Variations of the OODA Loop 4: Pseudo-Boydian Loops
Variations of the OODA Loop 5: Post-Boydian Loops
Variations of the OODA Loop 6: Bibliography

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