What military strategy tells us about decision-making in a post-COVID world

  • Posted on November 2, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

This article was originally published on CIO.com.

We’re living through a period of unprecedented change. The future is volatile and uncertain. From now on, every organisation will be making time-sensitive decisions based on incomplete information.

I served six years with the Royal Gurkha Rifles, and like many of my peers I completed two operational tours in Afghanistan. During my time in the forces, I was often faced with fast-changing and complex environments; we needed to make rapid decisions based on the available intelligence – with no room for error.


Introducing the OODA Loop
We did this, in part, by using a decision-making framework called the OODA Loop, developed by military strategist John Boyd. It’s taught in military and business schools around the world as a decision-making process to help deal with rapidly changing situations by converting intelligence into action. It gives you the ability to make decisions and react faster than your competitors.  ‘OODA’ stands for Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act. Here’s what that means in more detail: 

  1. Observe – the ability to take in data from various sources and to generate situational awareness.
  2. Orientate – the ability to generate insights on specific hypotheses to drive informed decisions.
  3. Decide – the ability to make timely decisions.
  4. Act – the ability to follow-through on decisions, to learn, to continually evolve and inform the next stage of observation.

We all have to think on our feet and make time-sensitive decisions. And sometimes clear insight, intelligence, logic and sober, rational thought can feel out of reach. The OODA Loop helps you keep a level head when things get tough.

Why it’s needed right now
In the shadow of COVID-19, organisations everywhere are making faster and faster decisions using increasingly uncertain or incomplete data. That’s why organisations, more than ever, need the ability to pivot quickly and generate new revenue streams and drive down costs.
This creates an imperative to rethink your data strategy. Specifically, how you leverage internal and external data, advanced analytics techniques (data science, machine learning, AI) and automation to generate insights that enable you to move faster through your OODA Loop.
So how do you make decision-making frameworks, like the OODA Loop, work for your team or organisation? Here are my tips for getting maximum success from the OODA Loop:
  • Revisit your data strategy. Ensure a clear vision of how data will be used to drive effective decision-making. The core of your vision needs clear governance and the ethical use of data.
  • Promote a culture of empowerment. The democratisation of data puts actionable insights within reach of every decision-maker. Empower your departments, teams and individuals to interrogate and gain insights from data.
  • Accelerate your data initiatives. Start small and scale fast – prove value and create a clear path to industrialisation.

Data and analytics: It’s sink or swim
For an organisation to survive in the post-COVID world, they’ll need to embrace data and analytics to drive insights. The facts speak for themselves: the top three business benefits of using data and analytics include improved efficiency and productivity’, ‘faster and more effective decision-making’, and ‘better financial performance’. Following the COVID-19 crisis, we can add ‘survival of your organisation’ to the list of benefits of using data and analytics to their full potential.

In the coming weeks and months, you’ll need to make some big decisions and answer some weighty questions: how will you maximise your teams’ productivity and safety in the workplace? How will consumers’ buying behaviours change? Is your team empowered with the right information at the right time to make the most effective decisions? The list goes on…

Give your digital transformation a boost
Insight-driven decision-making helps you make informed bets and better plan the future of your digital transformation journey in a rapidly changing world. Data is the enabler of digital transformation – and that’s where Avanade steps in. We help organisations accelerate their digital transformation initiatives and make fuller, smarter use of data.

Talking about data as a concept is all well and good, but to industrialise the OODA Loop as a decision-making framework requires fundamental change in your operating model. Avanade can help you identify your business imperatives and define the decision-making framework. We’ll help you move faster, leveraging modern engineering practices, new ways of working and the Microsoft ecosystem to help you transform.

Our ‘Respond, Reset, Renew’ rubric helps you rethink your data strategy, applications and infrastructure, starting with a fresher approach. It’s helped expedite the digital transformation strategies of major businesses, like Centrica Trading, which cut operating costs by 60-70% and Baxi, a manufacturer of domestic boilers, which used Avanade to enhance its digital marketing platform and take it to the next level.
Read It’s Time to Rethink Your Business – an essential guide identifying five key priorities that will help your business respond, reset and renew.

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