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Business Insights from Andrea Hill

What Can You Do Today? OODA Loops!

24 March 2020
Today, Andrea shares the concept of OODA Loops, and gives some practical advice for how you can spend meaningful time working ON your business.


If there's a recession, we know what worked and didn't work in the last recession, we don't necessarily like the fact that things take a certain amount of time to get through or that they cost a certain amount of money to get through. But there's a precedent and this time we don't have a precedent. And so I think all of us wake up every morning with a certain amount of anxiety. We wake up, we remember we're still in this moment and then we think, I don't know what to do and that not knowing what to do and not being able to imagine what comes next really shakes us up because we're used to knowing what to do and what comes next.

I guess the first thing to remember is that it's OK not to know what comes next.

It's not comfortable, but we are all in this together. No political leader, no business leader. Nobody actually has the answer of what to do next. And that may sound terrifying to you, but the reality is we are a very creative species and answers will start emerging and we just need to stay tuned and pay attention. So what do you do today with that, though? You know, what do you do today when you're worried about what comes next?

Well, there are a couple of leadership skills that I think every one of us can apply in our daily business. The first one I just said, I was reminded by some of my business school heroes. They reminded me of something called the OODAloop, which I hadn't thought about in forever. And yet it is the perfect tool for today. So it comes from a I believe, a Navy fighter pilot, definitely a military fighter pilot. May have been Air Force, but OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

And fighter pilots are dealing with rapidly changing situations that are life and death. And so they have to go through and it's called a loop for a reason.

You have to observe, Orient, Decide, Act, observe, Orient, decide, act very quickly as the conditions change. And the idea is, if you are doing your ouda loop, your Observe, Orient, Decide Act sequence faster than the conditions are changing, then you're in control of the situation. If you're doing them slower than the conditions are changing, then the situation is controlling you. So every day we can wake up and we can observe.

And what's happening now, we can orient ourselves to the current condition.

We can decide what we can do within the current conditions and then we can act on that. Sometimes conditions are changing faster than that. Sometimes we need to do it twice a day.

Now, I've been observing the situation since it emerged in China. I was out of the country when the flu started. I started keeping spreadsheets almost immediately. My spreadsheet goes back to January the 24th and I've been managing a company in Italy throughout this whole transition. So I can tell you from my experience, I have never seen the conditions change more than twice in a day. It's not three times a day. It's not six times a day. It's once or twice a day that we've seen dramatic condition changes.

So, hey, look at it this way.

We're not fighter pilots. We don't have to do the loop every 30 seconds or die. We just need to reorient and consider once or twice a day and then we can decide what to do today. So what can you do today? Because that's what's going to give you comfort. That's what's going to give you a feeling of control. Well, a lot of you have been referring to the fact that you're learning things that you need to learn for your business.

That is a tremendous thing that you can do today, is invest in your own learning.

But the other thing that all of us can be doing should be doing is this process of imagining the scenarios that will evolve and how we might respond to them.

So typically in business, we say, what are the possible things that could happen? And they're kind of a known list. And then how can I respond to each of those things if they do happen in this situation?

It's a much bigger list.

We don't actually know all the things that can happen, but we can each go through the process of imagining different types of outcomes.

So if you sat down today and imagined for your business four or five different possible outcomes, maybe they're simple, like, what if I can open up in four weeks? What if I can open up in eight weeks? What if I can open up in twelve weeks? And then you think, OK, what will the world look like? Four weeks, eight weeks, twelve weeks from now?

So you kind of put together these scenarios, these imaginary.

It's scenarios like draw a picture of what you think the conditions will look like and then say, OK, in scenario A.

These would be my challenges and these would be the things I could do to meet the challenges in scenario B, these would be a different set of challenges.

I mean, if we shut down for 12 weeks, it's going to have less economic ramifications than if we're shut down for 16 or 20 weeks. Right. So each scenario has different conditions and we can imagine those conditions just make them up, put some bullet points on paper.

The other condition that could be changing is that you may have different available skills in your business by then that learning that you're doing.

Melissa quick posted yesterday that she's working on her CRM right now. And I'm like, yay, Melissa, that's a great plan.

The things that you're learning will also change your conditions eight weeks or 12 weeks or 16 weeks from now.

So imagine and don't try to imagine 700 scenarios. That's overwhelming. Try to imagine several different scenarios and then imagine how you might respond to those. That kind of creative thinking and problem solving is what we do as business leaders every day. And it's something that everyone is capable of doing. And it starts building this library of ideas that you will need to get through this thing. So that is a very active thing that you can take control of and start doing for your business.

So remember that it's OK not to have all the answers right now. You're not missing the ball because somebody else knows what to do. And you don't do surround yourself with experts. Do make sure you are listening to the most qualified information you can have.

Again, none of us have the answers to this because we haven't been through a global pandemic in the modern technology and business environment.

So nobody can tell you they have the answers, but do the work of surrounding yourself with information that comes from qualified people who can bring pieces of their knowledge to your thought process and make you smarter.

That's really important. Assemble the right team in a business. We assemble the right team by pulling together the experts that we need for that internal team. As an entrepreneur or a small business, you need to assemble those elements from your external advisors and maybe they're a direct adviser that can sit down at the table and talk with you. Maybe they're just a thinker or a knowledge person that is publishing or talking on webinars.

But do do police the quality of the information you take in and then focus on your learning and focus on these scenarios and readdress your scenarios every single day. I told you I started keeping a spreadsheet in late January. Well, I have revisited that spreadsheet once a day and I've got another tab that has all my different scenarios about how things may play out. It's not about forecasting it accurately. Nobody has forecast this thing accurately some days and close in some ways.

I'm off. It's not about the accuracy, it's about the thinking. So as I have done this work of revisiting my scenarios over and over and over the last few months, I add new thoughts to the process. New ideas, new insights, new ideas. And all of that is going to help me be more prepared as this thing rolls on. You can do that, too. So that's my thought for you today.

Get on those processes and information will keep evolving and we'll get smarter together.

Oh, if you haven't signed up for in stores webinar today, we're going to be talking about a lot of the things we do know and can plan for. And also that the webinar series that I do with my essay, we're going to publish a brand new schedule of really frequent webinars over the next few weeks to keep addressing these things. So look at those two resources as well, because we're going to try and keep you informed as much as we possibly can with the best information we can come up with.

So have a great day to talk to you later.