Do you OODA??? Master Decision-Making using the OODA Loop: Learn from the United States’ Best to take your PMP Training to the Next Level!

16 min. read

Let’s face it. Project management is becoming more of a game of speed and execution every day. So making timely and effective decisions is paramount. One powerful framework that can enhance your decision-making skills is the OODA Loop, developed by United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd. This framework, originally designed for military strategy, has found applications in various fields, including business, law enforcement, and even project management. In this blog post, we will explore how the OODA Loop can be applied to project management, with a focus on PMP Training in San Diego. 

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Why San Diego?

The United States Navy SEALs, World-Renown Elite Special Forces, who are based in San Diego, use the OODA Loop in their decision-making processes as it can be very useful in highly pressured environments where they operate. The OODA Loop, developed by Colonel John Boyd, is a framework that helps individuals and teams process and respond to information quickly and effectively. It consists of four phases: Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.

If you thought Project Management Training was tough, check out what it takes to become a Navy Seal:

Becoming a Navy SEAL is one of the most grueling and demanding paths in the military, requiring a combination of extreme physical endurance, mental toughness, and unwavering determination. The journey begins with the Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School, an 8-week course designed to prepare candidates physically and mentally for the challenges ahead.

This is followed by the infamous Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training, a 24-week program divided into three phases: physical conditioning, combat diving, and land warfare. Each phase pushes candidates to their limits with rigorous physical tests, including long-distance swims, timed runs, obstacle courses, and underwater exercises. The training also includes “Hell Week,” a five-and-a-half-day period of continuous training with minimal sleep, designed to test the candidates’ endurance and resilience.

After BUD/S, candidates undergo SEAL Qualification Training (SQT), a 26-week course that provides advanced tactical training in weapons, navigation, small-unit tactics, and parachuting. Only about 20-25% of candidates who start the program make it through to earn the coveted SEAL Trident, symbolizing their readiness to join one of the world’s most elite fighting forces. This intense and comprehensive training ensures that only the most capable and resilient individuals become Navy SEALs, ready to face the most challenging missions. The OODA Loop provides an asymmetrical, complementary advantage to highly trained Navy SEALs.

What is the OODA Loop?

The OODA Loop stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. It is a continuous cycle that helps individuals and organizations make better decisions in dynamic and competitive environments. Here’s a breakdown of each phase:

  1. Observe: Gather information about the current situation.
  2. Orient: Analyze the information and your own internal state to understand the context.
  3. Decide: Choose a course of action based on your orientation.
  4. Act: Implement the decision and observe the results, feeding back into the loop.

The SEALs apply the OODA Loop to handle rapid, on-the-fly planning and decision-making, which is crucial in high-stakes and dynamic environments. For example, SEAL sniper teams use the OODA Loop to quickly assess their situation, analyze their options, make decisions, and take action to protect their units and accomplish their missions. This process allows them to stay ahead of their adversaries by cycling through the loop faster and more efficiently, thereby gaining a tactical advantage.

Navy SEALs integrate the OODA Loop into their training in several key ways:

Developing Situational Awareness

A critical aspect of the “Observe” phase is developing keen situational awareness. Navy SEAL training emphasizes honing the senses to gather information quickly and accurately. Techniques like the “Keep in Memory” game help operators gather a large amount of data in a short time.

Analyzing Biases and Tendencies

During the “Orient” phase, it’s important to analyze information objectively without being influenced by biases or tendencies. Navy SEAL training focuses on recognizing and mitigating these mental pitfalls to enable sound analysis of the situation.

Rapid, On-the-Fly Planning

The OODA Loop is used when “rapid, on-the-fly planning and decision are necessary”. Navy SEAL missions often require making complex decisions under extreme time pressure. Training emphasizes the ability to quickly process information, consider options, and take decisive action.

Shortening the Decision Cycle

A key goal is to move through the OODA Loop faster than the adversary. This allows the SEALs to disrupt the enemy’s decision-making and gain the upper hand. Training focuses on streamlining the process to cycle through Observe, Orient, Decide, Act as efficiently as possible.

Adapting to Changing Conditions

The OODA Loop is not a linear process but a continuous cycle. Navy SEAL training instills the ability to adapt to evolving situations. Operators learn to continuously gather new information, re-evaluate their orientation, adjust decisions, and modify actions as needed.

By integrating the OODA Loop into all aspects of training, Navy SEALs develop the mental agility and decision-making skills required to succeed in high-stakes, dynamic environments. The framework provides a structured approach to processing information, making choices, and taking action with speed and precision. 

The key benefit of using the OODA Loop is that it provides a cyclical framework for continuous learning, adaptation and making well-informed decisions in a rapidly changing business environment. By constantly observing, orienting, deciding and acting, companies can stay agile and maintain a competitive edge. Now let’s see what the OODA Loop looks like in Project Management.

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Applying the OODA Loop in Project Management

1. Observe

In the context of project management, observation involves collecting data on project performance, stakeholder feedback, and environmental factors. For instance, during a PMP Training session in San Diego, you might observe the following:

  • Project Metrics: Track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as budget adherence, schedule variance, and quality metrics.
  • Stakeholder Feedback: Gather input from team members, clients, and other stakeholders to understand their perspectives and concerns.
  • Environmental Factors: Monitor external factors such as market trends, regulatory changes, and technological advancements that could impact the project.

2. Orient

Orientation is about making sense of the information gathered during the observation phase. This involves analyzing data, understanding the context, and considering your own biases and experiences. In a PMP Training session, you might:

  • Analyze Data: Use tools like SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to evaluate the project’s current state.
  • Contextual Understanding: Consider the project’s goals, constraints, and the broader organizational strategy.
  • Bias Awareness: Be aware of cognitive biases that might affect your judgment, such as confirmation bias or overconfidence.

3. Decide

Based on your orientation, you need to make a decision on the best course of action. This could involve:

  • Strategic Planning: Develop a detailed action plan that outlines the steps needed to achieve project objectives.
  • Risk Management: Identify potential risks and develop mitigation strategies.
  • Resource Allocation: Decide how to allocate resources such as time, budget, and personnel to maximize project success.

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4. Act

The final phase is to implement the decision and take action. This involves:

  • Execution: Carry out the action plan, ensuring that all team members are aligned and understand their roles.
  • Monitoring: Continuously monitor the implementation to ensure it stays on track and make adjustments as needed.
  • Feedback Loop: Observe the outcomes of your actions and feed this information back into the OODA Loop for continuous improvement.

Realistic Examples to apply the OODA Loop framework for effective decision-making:

PMP Training in San Diego

Imagine you are a project manager attending a PMP Training session in San Diego. During the training, you are tasked with managing a project to develop a new software application. Here’s how you might apply the OODA Loop:

Observe: You gather data on the project’s progress, including completed tasks, remaining work, and any issues that have arisen. You also collect feedback from your team and stakeholders.

Orient: You analyze the data and feedback, considering the project’s goals and constraints. You recognize that a recent regulatory change could impact the project’s timeline.

Decide: You decide to reallocate resources to address the regulatory change, update the project schedule, and communicate the changes to stakeholders.

Act: You implement the updated plan, monitor the project’s progress, and gather feedback on the effectiveness of the changes. You use this information to make further adjustments as needed.

Product Development and Innovation

Observe: Gather data on customer needs, market trends, emerging technologies, and competitor offerings.

Orient: Analyze the data to identify opportunities, understand customer pain points, and assess your company’s strengths and capabilities.

Decide: Based on the analysis, decide on new product ideas, features, pricing strategy, etc.

Act: Develop and launch the new product, monitoring customer feedback and market response.

Example: Apple applied the OODA Loop when developing the iPhone. They observed the emerging smartphone market, oriented their resources towards developing an easy-to-use touchscreen device, decided on innovative features like multi-touch and the App Store, and acted by launching a product that disrupted the mobile industry.

Marketing and Brand Strategy

Observe: Monitor consumer behavior, social media trends, advertising metrics, and competitor marketing tactics.

Orient: Analyze target-audience preferences, brand perception, and the effectiveness of current marketing efforts.

Decide: Develop new marketing campaigns, messaging, channels, and budget allocation based on insights.

Act: Execute the marketing strategy while continuously gathering data on its performance.

Example: Coca-Cola used the OODA Loop to reorient its marketing towards health-conscious consumers. They observed changing preferences, decided to launch new low-calorie options like Coke Zero, and acted with marketing campaigns highlighting these products.

Supply Chain Optimization

Observe: Monitor supply and demand signals, supplier performance, logistics costs, and potential disruptions.

Orient: Analyze supply chain inefficiencies, risks, and opportunities for improvement.

Decide: Develop strategies to reduce costs, improve delivery times, mitigate risks, etc.

Act: Implement changes to supply chain processes, renegotiate contracts, adopt new technologies, etc.

Example: Amazon applied the OODA Loop to its supply chain, observing demand patterns, orienting inventory across fulfillment centers, deciding to build an air cargo network, and acting by deploying Amazon Air to speed up deliveries.

Competitive Strategy

Observe: Monitor competitor actions, pricing, new offerings, market share changes.

Orient: Analyze your company’s competitive positioning, strengths/weaknesses compared to rivals.

Decide: Develop strategies to gain advantage – new products, pricing, marketing, partnerships etc.

Act: Execute the competitive strategy while continuously monitoring the market landscape.

Example: Walmart used the OODA Loop against Amazon by observing their e-commerce growth, orienting resources towards online retail, deciding to acquire digital brands like, and acting by rapidly expanding their online business.

Agile Project Management

Observe: In an agile project management setting, the first step is to gather data on the project’s progress. This includes tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), collecting feedback from stakeholders, and monitoring any changes in the project environment. For instance, during a sprint review, the project team collects data on completed tasks, backlog items, and any issues encountered.

Orient: Next, the team analyzes the collected data to understand the current state of the project. This involves assessing the project’s goals, constraints, and any new information that might impact the project. The team might use tools like SWOT analysis to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. They also consider feedback from stakeholders to align their understanding with the project’s objectives.

Decide: Based on the analysis, the team makes informed decisions about the next steps. This could involve reprioritizing tasks, adjusting timelines, or reallocating resources. For example, if a critical bug is identified during the sprint review, the team might decide to prioritize fixing it in the next sprint.

Act: The final step is to implement the decisions made. The team updates the sprint plan, assigns tasks, and begins work on the prioritized items. Throughout the sprint, they continue to monitor progress and gather new data, feeding back into the OODA Loop for continuous improvement.

Example: A software development team uses the OODA Loop to manage their agile project. By continuously observing progress, orienting themselves to new information, making informed decisions, and taking action, they can quickly adapt to changing requirements and deliver high-quality software.

Crisis Management

Observe: In a crisis situation, such as a major project delay or a critical system failure, the first step is to quickly gather information about the situation. This includes identifying the root cause of the problem, assessing the impact on the project, and collecting feedback from affected stakeholders.

Orient: The project manager and team analyze the gathered information to understand the full scope of the crisis. They consider the project’s goals, constraints, and any external factors that might influence the situation. This helps them to develop a clear picture of the problem and its potential impact.

Decide: Based on their analysis, the team decides on the best course of action to mitigate the crisis. This might involve reallocating resources, adjusting timelines, or implementing contingency plans. For example, if a key supplier fails to deliver critical components, the team might decide to source the components from an alternative supplier.

Act: The team implements the chosen course of action, closely monitoring the results to ensure the crisis is effectively managed. They continue to gather data and feedback, using the OODA Loop to make further adjustments as needed.

Example: A construction project faces unexpected delays due to severe weather conditions. The project manager uses the OODA Loop to gather information about the delays, analyze the impact on the project schedule, decide on alternative work plans, and implement these plans to keep the project on track.

Product Launch

Observe: Before launching a new product, the project team gathers data on market trends, customer preferences, and competitor offerings. This involves conducting market research, analyzing sales data, and collecting feedback from potential customers.

Orient: The team analyzes the collected data to understand the market landscape and identify opportunities and threats. They consider the product’s unique selling points, target audience, and competitive positioning. This helps them to develop a clear strategy for the product launch.

Decide: Based on their analysis, the team decides on the marketing and sales strategy for the product launch. This might include setting pricing, developing promotional campaigns, and planning distribution channels. For example, they might decide to launch the product with a limited-time discount to attract early adopters.

Act: The team implements the product launch strategy, executing marketing campaigns, and distributing the product to retailers. They continuously monitor sales performance and customer feedback, using the OODA Loop to make adjustments to the strategy as needed.

Example: A tech company uses the OODA Loop to launch a new smartphone. By continuously observing market trends, orienting their strategy to customer needs, making informed decisions, and taking action, they successfully launch the product and achieve strong sales.

Dealing with a Job Loss

Observe: Notice the signs of potential layoffs – company downsizing, poor financial performance, your role becoming redundant, etc. Gather information on your current financial situation, skills, and job market prospects.

Orient: Analyze the reasons behind the job loss – is it performance-related or due to external factors? Assess your financial runway and immediate priorities. Evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, and transferable skills. Understand the emotional impact and your mindset.

Decide: Decide on immediate steps like tightening budgets, seeking unemployment benefits, or taking a temporary job. Develop a job search strategy – networking, updating your resume, exploring further education/training. Decide if you want to change careers entirely.

Act: Implement your job search plan – apply for roles, attend interviews, work on skills upgradation. Adjust your lifestyle to the new financial realities. Seek support from family/friends. Remain positive and persistent in the face of rejection.

Overcoming a Health Crisis

Observe: Monitor symptoms, get medical tests done, and gather information on your condition from healthcare professionals. Observe how the illness is affecting your daily life and ability to function.

Orient: Research your illness thoroughly to understand causes, treatments, and long-term implications. Analyze how it will impact your work, relationships, and future plans. Evaluate your mental/emotional state and coping mechanisms.

Decide: Decide on a treatment plan in consultation with your doctor. Determine any lifestyle changes required – diet, exercise, reducing stress etc. Decide if you need to take time off work or make accommodations. Plan for potential financial/caregiving needs.

Act: Follow through on the treatment regimen diligently. Implement lifestyle changes and explore support groups or counseling if needed. Adjust your routine and responsibilities based on your capabilities. Communicate openly with family, friends and workplace about your situation.

Navigating a Relationship Challenge

Observe: Notice signs of trouble in the relationship – frequent arguments, drifting apart, lack of intimacy/trust. Observe your partner’s behavior and your own contributions to the issues.

Orient: Reflect on the core issues and underlying reasons for the challenges. Analyze expectations, communication patterns, and compatibility. Evaluate your commitment to resolving the problems.

Decide: Decide if you want to work on rebuilding the relationship through counseling, open communication or taking a break. Or decide if it’s better to separate/divorce while ending things amicably.

Act: If reconciling, act on implementing agreed boundaries, compromises and working on yourselves individually and as a couple. If separating, act on legal/financial separation steps. Seek support from family/friends. Focus on self-care and personal growth.

The OODA Loop provides a structured way to become more aware, analyze complex personal situations objectively, make well-informed decisions, and take decisive action – all while continuing to adapt as circumstances evolve. By using this cycle, individuals can navigate life’s challenges with greater resilience and intentionality.


The OODA Loop is a versatile and powerful framework that can be applied to various aspects of project management. By continuously observing, orienting, deciding, and acting, project managers can enhance their decision-making abilities, improve project agility, and effectively manage risks and uncertainties. Whether managing an agile project, responding to a crisis, or launching a new product, the OODA Loop provides a structured approach to achieving project success. Or if you are attending a PMP Training session in San Diego or managing a complex project, the OODA Loop can help you achieve better outcomes and drive project success.

For those looking to enhance their project management skills, consider enrolling in a PMP Instructor-Led Training program. This training will provide you with the knowledge, tools and PMI-Certified Expert Advice needed to apply frameworks like the OODA Loop effectively, ensuring you are well-equipped to handle the challenges of modern project management.