Monday, February 21, 2011

The OODA Loop. Do you do it? (#14inFeb 8/14)

While I was at EdCamp Kansas City in early November, I attended a session with John Carver and Shannon Miller from Van Meter, Iowa, about leading change. John spoke a bunch about his efforts as he leads his district to the vision of Think, Lead, Serve and 1:1 computers.

At one point, John mentioned OODA: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. He mentioned that OODA comes originally from submarine commanders. The idea is that once your course is set, you must regularly — based on observations — make a decision to determine if you are still on the best course. If not, you must act, or adjust course. It is a constant process often called an OODA Loop.

In his role as superintendent of the schools in Van Meter, John puts this into practice by keeping his district's vision statement visible in his office. He said that he refers to it while thinking and talking about pending decisions. In this way, he can keep Van Meter constantly moving toward their goals.

OODA has application on the school and classroom level as well. While he did not use the phrase explicitly, Jonathan Martin, at Connected Principals, describes the dynamic of and uses the language of OODA when he writes, "School may stink for too many students, but we can correct course if we educators become the change we seek, becoming, truly and authentically, the learners we want our students to become: purposeful experimenters and innovators, digital creators and producers, professional colleagues and effective collaborators, and life-long learners."

I would bet that Jonathan, like John Carver and me, keeps his school's or his personal vision on the wall of his office. At my last principal position, I kept my core values of leadership on the bulletin board behind the work table in my office. It was right where I could see it during most meetings. The same language is posted prominently on this blog, "Do what’s best for children. It’s all about relationships. Process and participation matter." In my next office, I will add the rest of my core ideas, "Learning:All children can learn and be successful. Community: Safety, Respect, and Learning." I keep these words, my "target," to use OODA language, in sight to act as a constant reminder for those times when I or others need it.

I will never be captain of a submarine (there, I said it. I feel better.) I can learn from the submariners to figure out where I am (orient), to use the available data (observe) to make the best decision I can (decide), and to implement that decision (act). I can keep my sights on my target and guide my school to be better. Then, I can do it all over again.

OODA - Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. Do you use the OODA Loop to make decisions? Is your target clear to you and everyone around you? Do you secretly want to be a submarine captain?

Cross posted on Connected Principals.

Image credits
I created the OODA Loop with neu.Draw ( on iPad