OODA Loop: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

All models are wrong, some models are useful.

George E. P. Box

“Observe, Orient, Decide, Act” (OODA) is a simple decision-making model developed by US Air Force Colonel John Boyd. The concept is straightforward: Every entity in a competition is executing these four phases, the side that can execute them more quickly and accurately 1 will win. “OODA” is a useful shorthand for discussing human decision-making and is commonly used in military circles.

Of course, this simple phrase masks an enormous amount of complexity regarding the amount of information observed, the participant’s ability to orient, the quality of decision-making, and the actions available to execute. It is this simplicity that gives the phrase its strength. Because the model is so simple, it is true at every scale: engagement to engagement, battle to battle, campaign to campaign. Strategic decision-makers are looking at the forest while tactical decision-makers are looking at the trees, yet they’re all executing an OODA loop for their relative scope and scale.


  1. in that order

Benjamin Schwartz

Hi, I'm Ben! Growing up I wanted to be an astronaut because it looked fun. Then I watched Apollo 13 and saw that it was the engineers who had the most interesting and challenging roles. At Space Camp I learned about the unique challenges of living and working in space, so I decided to pursue a career in human factors engineering. I have been fortunate to work on many fascinating projects in aviation, military, and commercial systems. I'm proud to make complicated, mission-critical systems easier and more effective to use. I am currently the Director of Human Engineering at Monterey Technologies, a small business providing human engineering services to a variety of commercial and government customers. I support a top-notch team of human factors engineers, user experience designers, and other specialists. We apply agile, user-centered systems engineering to ensure that systems meet stakeholder and mission needs. I'm also involved in STEM education and mentorship through organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), SAE International, Girl Scouts, and local schools. I'm passionate about improving the discipline and practice of systems engineering and particularly the systems engineering specialty of human systems integration (HSI). Through professional societies such as the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), and the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) I have contributed to the development of standards and guidance, presented at conferences, and generally shared my passion for developing mission-capable, highly-usable systems. That's also my objective for Engineering for Humans. Writing this blog helps me think through and organize my thoughts. I also want to bring awareness to the role of human engineering in system development and to foster critical discussion on current industry trends. I'd love to hear from you, you can reach me at benjamin@engineeringforhumans.com.

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