Tag Archive for sense making

Observations on OODA, or Does the Machine Know?

Before you read this blog, watch this great clip from The Office and think about Michael’s situational awareness, decision-making process, and ability to update his “reality baseline!”

There are many theories that attempt to codify the decision-making process. One that has had a big influence on my decision-making approach is Boyd’s “OODA Loop.”

Col. John Boyd was a fighter pilot and military theorist whose analysis (and practice) of aerial combat led him to formulate high-level strategic military theories (including one that formed the basis of the Gulf War military plan) and general cognitive theories, including the OODA Loop, which has since become popular in business and sports.

OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It is Boyd’s shorthand for the way humans interact with and control their environment. The idea is that individuals, businesses, armies, etc. that master the OODA loop gain the advantage.

These are the four simple steps in a dynamic OODA Loop:

  1. Observation: Take in data about the overall situation.
  2. Orientation: Analyze and make judgments about the situation.
  3. Decision: Determine a course of action.
  4. Action: Execute the action, then observe the decision (to start the loop again!)

When engaged in a game, business decision, battle, or otherwise, Boyd insists the successful “get inside the OODA Loop.” One strategy for success is to execute OODA loops faster than opponents, thereby improving situational awareness while the opponent loses effectiveness. Mistakes made by individuals or groups result from old information or mis-guided situational assessments and decisions.

Boyd suggests that organizations that execute the best OODA loops strike a balance between decentralized (and therefore nimble) decision-makers and top echelons that monitor from afar just enough to ensure that lower rank decision-makers adhere to a grand strategy. Not surprisingly, this describes the military hierarchy pretty well!

However, what is not specifically called out in the OODA model is the reflexive, critical thinking that can help refine and improve the connections between the OODA steps. American pragmatist thinkers—Dewey, James, Peirce—have much to say along these lines. Other theories that complicate OODA come from Karl Weick—his “Theory of Sensemaking,” for instance, examines the roles that ambiguity and uncertainty play in observation, analysis, and decision-making.

In fact, I keep in mind Weick’s Theory of Sensemaking at all times because my business requires constant and complex situational awareness, especially when collaborating with other organizations.

Michael from The Office probably should have updated his “reality baseline” rather than blindly trust his TomTom—he made a poor decision in the face of a common sense alternative. Writ large, a silly human error like his can become a colossal groupthink failure!

SITUATIONAL AWARENESS AND DECISION SUPPORT ON THE US BORDER Operations and Systems Improvements

AVI Management Group (AVIsion) was recently contacted by several engineering specialists who are currently involved with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded Secure Border Initiatives (SBI) program.

AVIsion was asked to help provide solutions that can solve the challenge of reliably incorporating data from disparate sources into the SBInet Common Operating Picture (COP) used by US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).  After review of the program, several factors have been identified that if implemented, will greatly enhance its effectiveness. The current program can be leveraged and expanded using existing assets such as the Waypoint GIS system, repurposing the dispatch system software currently used for SBInet DSS, and sharing resources with programs such as SPAWAR. In addition, communications networks could be reconfigured to extend the original vision of SBInet to the field.

While the SBI program is on hold pending congressional review, the CBD still has two requirements of utmost importance;

  1. To be able to recognize and track legitimate breaches of US borders, and
  2. Identify targets and intentions prior to apprehension.

Historically missing from the DHS modus operandi is a roadmap and strategy to achieve afore mentioned requirements on a comprehensive scale. In the case of CBP, a vision for managing the perimeter of the United States is paramount to determining operational and tactical approaches that can close gaps on the border. At the national level, DHS needs to feed a comprehensive analytics solution for managing resources, predicting patterns and behaviors beyond local environments. Introduction of a feedback loop through the command chain will further enhance situational awareness and decision making. Introduction of a feedback loop on a local level can constantly refine simple decision making as patterns reveal consistent successes under specific conditions.

AVIsion and its partners have a clear vision for how both CBP and DHS can operationally and technically manage tactical and strategic border security mandates. This vision includes the use of subject matter experts to perform a use-centered analysis on the unique needs and characteristics of each CBP sector and subsector. In addition this includes review of processes to identify improvments and efficiencies, as well as data and tools.

A comprehensive study is planned, resulting in an actionable blueprint that includes a master-level framework to ultimately deliver the right information to the right people, at the right time. This framework includes an intelligence platform, physical devices and architecture, people and process maps. The blueprint, based on a 15-year plan, will provide a short-term path, and a longer-term roadmap.

envisioned common operating picture condensed view

AVIsion possesses international enterprise-level information management, system design,and planning and implementation experience. Our company has experience in delivering comprehensive distributed systems into remote areas that have constrained communications systems and infrastructure.  An opportunity presently exists to provide alternative operational and technical approaches to CBP and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  AVIsion is also accepting partners and subject matter experts who feel they can contribute to this effort

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