Thursday, December 06, 2007

Strategy and tactics in the OODA loop

Are you one of the many folks who are at least a little bit confused about the difference between strategy and tactics? Well, the OODA loop provides a pretty good framework to put these issues into perspective.
First a review of OODA: OODA stands for Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. The idea is that in order to do some action, you basically have to observe your conditions, orient yourself to your situation, decide how to act, then act. The orientation and the decision typically take most people the most time but every so often you come across a martial artist who seems to be able to process through this OODA loop much faster than others. How do they do it?
They do it through Strategy. Strategy is a broad, general, big-picture plan of how to behave in a conflict in order to achieve a goal. Great martial artists are able to strategically shift some part of their orientation and decision time so that their general behaviors are pre-programmed and tied to specific observations. For instance, in aikido we spend much of our time training and refining a reflex to step off the line of attack anytime anyone passes within arm’s reach.
Strategy takes place before the OODA loop starts in order to reduce Orientation and Decision time.
Tactics take place within the OODA loop. The actions that you take based on oriented decisions are tactical.
You have to have tactics, but tactical action is limited. When your situation becomes unique or chaotic then you are unable to act tactically and stay inside your opponent’s OODA loop. You have to start thinking and working strategically.

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