OODA Thinking in a Frightening World of Extraordinary Change

COVID19 has thrown our world into turmoil.  Running your own business has never been for the faint-hearted.  Now the pressures on you and your family may seem almost unbearable.  Where do any of us start? You may feel overwhelmed and in utter despair or you may have decided (who could blame you) that you should just keep your head down and not worry too much beyond getting by day to day.

Neither of these approaches is likely to be a good idea.  “Things are never as good as they seem and never as bad as they seem” a tough and shrewd entrepreneur once said recounting the words of his mentor.  “But what do I do first” I hear you ask? 

Here we may learn much to our advantage from the military and from sport.  Colonel John Boyd of the United States Air Force developed a concept for combat operations which was later christened the OODA loop.  The All Blacks adopted this theory to develop the mindset of their World-beating Rugby team.  

Decision-making in this frightening and chaotic environment requires emotional detachment as never before in a recurring cycle of observe-orientate-decide-act.

You will be in the observe phase now like us all as we look on in appalled fascination at the established order in every area changing at lightening pace.  A sick feeling may be growing in the pit of your stomach as you contemplate the future for your company.  

But you cannot possible observe all the data that you need to observe without the help of an expert guide.  Someone with a very cool head who has traversed this terrain many, many times before needs to help you observe.

Choose that guide wisely.  Look for grey hairs.  Someone with an instinct for people and business.  A person who does not presume to move to describe arcane sounding laws and legal procedures until he or she has first got to know you.  What makes you tick and what is really important to you.  A man or woman who takes the time to understand the relationships that really matter in your business.  Someone who has the ability to understand the fundamental economics of your business and its real risk areas.  You may be surprise (for the good or the bad) how they see your world.  

Having observed the new terrain with the help of your chosen guide you must orientate.  But here again in which direction should you look, how can you try to focus on any strategic direction as it all seems so complicated and fast-changing?  The right guide will know how difficult setting and sustaining a strategy can be but, detached from the emotions that you inevitably have, he or she will help you orientate.  

Having observed and orientated you must now decide.  Here you need around you a team you who understand the legal landscape intimately but are not afraid of giving you practical, real-world guidance.   Having decided what to do you must then act and act decisively and with complete focus.
Then (and this too may seem scary) you are going to need to have the courage to stop.  In an environment that is so fast-changing your plans must be highly adaptable.  Even though your adrenalin is pumping fast and you again feel in control you are going to need to observe, orientate, decide and act again.

Perhaps a change in one or more
key relationships or in the companies fortunes or finances leads you to a complete change of direction.  You need a guide who will be empathetic when this happens irrespective of what that may mean for them personally.  

Select your guide wisely.  Go with your gut instinct.  What is this telling you about them and their motivations.  Honesty and competence must go hand in glove if you are to trust them and the advice they give.  Integrity and enterprise is what needed as never before in this New World.
Beware of the mindset that seeks out the adviser who confirms your uninformed decision without proper enquiry.   You do not want the rogue or the fool who will confirm your wishful thinking.  

However difficult it is this is going to be a decision that you must make, not your advisors. Thinking you can abdicate responsibility to them no matter how confident and successful they may seem will not work.  Leaving aside the legal responsibilities which will stay with you, your own mental health (and mental resilience) will depend on you staying true to yourself.

The law is very rarely black and white and being true to yourself and your values will ultimately be what makes you happy and fulfilled.  Remember too that moving on and closing a business is only a failure if you perceive it that way.  

Be the captain of your soul and the master of your destiny.