Improvement Insights Blog
Top Gun: Maverick and the OODA Loop
Top Gun: Maverick holds a powerful lesson and insight. Here’s how it applies to Lean Six Sigma:
“My wife and I recently went and saw “Top Gun: Maverick.” Maverick’s now this old “test pilot” kind of guy, but he’s called in to help train the best of the best for a special mission. These young hot shots think that he’s an old guy, right? He can’t possibly know anything. It’s kind of funny to watch: they get up and he’s trying to evaluate them and he says, “Let’s get up and we’ll do combat,” and they make a challenge. They say, “Hey, let’s make it really interesting: If you shoot us down we’ll do 200 push-ups; if [we] shoot [you] down [you’ll] do 200 push-ups. He says okay, and they’re like, “Yeah, I got this guy!” Of course, Cruise’s character Maverick cuts them all off, shoots them all down and they are doing push-ups daily… 200 push-ups daily. I don’t know about you, but I think my muscles would be in a situation where I couldn’t actually fly anymore.
“That kind of thinking is based on a [person named] John Boyd, who was a fighter pilot back in the 50s. They called him “Forty-Second Boyd” because he would train people and he’d say, “Get on my tail,” and in 40 seconds he would defeat them. In forty seconds he would beat those people.
“He came up with what he called the OODA Loop. OODA, which stands for “Observe,” see where you’re at; “Orient,” so you know where you’re going; “Decide” what you’re going to do; and “Act.” The faster you do the OODA loop, the faster you can get on somebody else’s tail and shoot them down. It was kind of his thing. Then the Marines actually adopted the OODA loop for a lot of the things that that they do on the ground.
“The OODA loop has kind of taken on a little cachet, because that’s how we have to think. In Quality Improvement, I like to “Observe,” okay, where’s the biggest pain, where’s the biggest problem, where’s the biggest suffering, where’s the biggest loss of money, whatever it is; and then “Orient,” okay, so where’s the data for that; “Decide” what we’re going to do, do some data analysis; and then “Act,” do some root cause analysis, implement changes and see what happens. The faster we can do that, the faster we can get to better, faster, cheaper (or Free, Perfect and Now).
“So I want you to consider the OODA Loop; you might even Google it: OODA Loop. That’s my Improvement Insight for this week. Let’s start improving things a lot faster than we have in the past.”