Lean Warfare

One of the rules in Alan Webber's book, Rules of Thumb, is Speed = Strategy. In this brief chapter he covers John Boyd's Discourse on Winning and Losing. Webber is the cofounder of Fast Company magazine. Boyd was a fighter pilot in Korea and self-taught expert in warfare. Boyd's ideas for air-to-air combat and warfare revolutionized fighter design and military strategy across the Air force, Army, Navy and Marines. They are as applicable to competition in business as they are to winning in war.

The OODA Loop
Boyd was known as 40-second Boyd. He would let any pilot get on his "six" and defeat them in 40-seconds or less. To do so, Boyd employed his central strategy, the OODA loop: Observation, Orientation, Decision and Action.

  • Observe the environment, yourself and enemy (competitor) actions.
  • Orient your thinking using analysis and synthesis of what you've observed.
  • Decide what to do. Select a hypothesis to test from a number of alternatives.
  • Act to test the decision.

He found that when forces, even a smaller force, cycle through this loop faster than the enemy, they gain a winning advantage. Boyd calls this "operatinginside the opponent's decision cycle." It outpaces the opponent's ability to react which leads to confusion and an inability to act.

Boyd was also fond of maneuverability. He used data from Wright Patterson Air force Base to prove that early U.S. jets were inferior to Russian MIGs. His exploration of Energy Maneuverability (EM) shaped the development of the F-15 and F-16 fighter jets.

Speed is the Killer App "The ability to operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than an adversary enables one to fold the adversary back inside himself. He will become disoriented and confused. It will collapse his ability to carry on."

By stripping unnecessary delays out of the OODA loop, you can get faster than your competition. Webber points out that Stalk and Hout found this to be the "secret sauce" of Japan's manufacturing capabilities in the 1990s which lead to their book, Competing Against Time.

Does your company take too long to make a decision? Are you waiting for better data? Boyd says: "The very nature of war makes bsolute certainty impossible; all actions in war will be based on incomplete, inaccurate, or even contradictory information."

Are sluggish decision-making processes putting your company at risk? What are you going to do to eliminate the delays and accelerate your OODA loop?

Have you become too focused inside of your organization, failing to scout your customers, competitors and the horizon for information key to the future of your business?

How "maneuverable" is your business? Is it agile or arthritic?

Speed is the killer app. Are you falling victim to it or leveraging its power?

Need Help Eliminating the Delays from Your OODA Loop?
Learn how to eliminate the "Speed Bumps of Lean."

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, (888) 468-1537, support@qimacros.com."

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