Posts Tagged OODA

Building Snowmobiles: Corporate Insurgency, By Professor David James

     So I thought I would put this up as a ‘building snowmobiles’ post, because A. it mentions the OODA loop as applied to business and B. they are copying some of the strategies that work for today’s insurgents or pirates, and applying it to business as well.

     I really wish I could find a copy of Corporate Insurgency though, or get the professor onto the blog here to discuss the concept a little more. This story was also taken from the Economist.

     The main theme here is to leverage the power of small forces against larger forces, or for larger forces to act like smaller forces to compete with them in business.  Insurgents will not take on armies directly, and will try to attack the bigger foe’s weakest parts. Professor James talks about how businesses can do the same thing in the market place.

     He also talks about the decision making cycle of large companies versus small companies. That in order for large companies to compete with smaller ones, they cannot be micro-managers of the brand. The professor derives examples of this de-centralized type command structure from today’s insurgents in places like Afghanistan. Imagine that, learning business lessons from how the enemy does it’s thing in the war?

     What I really thought was interesting though was the creation of a business ‘commando’ unit for the larger companies. Something that can quickly react to the local situation and can make quick decisions outside the realm of the standard boardroom. This would be ideal for jumping on deals or business that requires speed of decision–something that smaller companies or individuals are more apt to do than lets say the larger companies.

     How I envision a business commando unit in the private military sector, is a group that would seek out business in all parts of the world, or deal with the fast paced nature of the PR world. This kind of group would be ideal for getting the word out about what is going on with a company, or communicating with folks like me for a company’s strategic communications. They could be the ones that provide more of a personal touch to these larger companies, and really explore ways of connecting with potential clients or employees. I am sure there are other areas that these types of units might actually benefit a large PMC or similar defense company, and the imagination is the only limitation.

     My final thought here, is what lessons could PMC’s learn from pirates or insurgents?  Well I have talked about the New Rules of War in the past, and the whole OODA thing, but I have really never explored how these strategies of war could be applied to business. By taking the advice of the professor, this might show the way for smaller defense companies to take market share from the bigger PMC’s by jumping on very niche oriented services. For you guys and gals out there with small businesses, hopefully these ideas will help you to focus your energies on the niches in the market place that will give you a higher chance of success. Do you want to compete directly with a company like DynCorp for the big contracts, or do you want to become successful by tackling the small and unique types of business that DynCorp is not quick enough to jump on? Food for thought. –Matt

Pirate copy

What managers can learn from Somali pirates

November 07, 2010

PURVEYORS of management-speak are fond of quoting cod insights from military strategists. According to David James, a professor at Henley Business School, they would do better studying the management styles of some of those the armed forces are fighting, such as Somali pirates. Alongside Paul Kearney, a lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Marines, Professor James has been studying the operations of the pirates, as well as insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, to see if they have anything to teach legitimate firms.

The threat to life and liberty aside, Somali pirates’ business model is impressive. According to the professor, each raid costs the pirates around $30,000. On average one raid in three is successful. The reward for a triumphant venture, however, can be in the millions.

The organisation behind the pirates would be familiar to many ordinary businesses. For a start, they have a similar backend—including the kind of streamlined logistics and operations controls that would be the envy of most companies. Their success has even prompted one village to open a pirate “stock exchange”, where locals can buy shares in up to 70 maritime companies planning raids.

But Professor James believes that the most important lesson firms can learn is one of strategy. He teaches his MBA class that one reason for the pirates’ success is that they avoid “symmetrical” conflict—challenging their targets head on by, for example, lining up against the Western navies patrolling the waters—battles they would surely lose. Instead, they use stealth and surprise, attacking targets at their weakest point. In this way, with only a dozen-or-so sailors, they wrest control of huge assets, in the form of oil tankers.

This is a lesson that serves smaller companies well as they look to take bites out of larger rivals. It might be foolish, for example, for a start-up to take on one of the traditional banks head-to-head—only another large bank could afford the pyrrhic battle that would ensue from it protecting its market. But by picking a small, localised fight a start-up can make an impression before a bank has had time to react. An example, says Professor James, is It has taken market share by attacking banks’ inflexible lending policies by offering loans for the exact amount and length of time the customer wants. It processes the loans extremely quickly and customers can even get immediate approval using an iPhone app.

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Strategy: Fourth Generation Warfare And Grand Strategy, By Chet Richards

4GW and Grand Strategy

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Leadership: The Next Petraeus–What Makes A Visionary Commander?

“One day you will take a fork in the road, and you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go. If you go one way, you can be somebody. You will have to make your compromises and … turn your back on your friends, but you will be a member of the club, and you will get promoted and get good assignments. Or you can go the other way, and you can do something, something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. … You may not get promoted, and you may not get good assignments, and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors, but you won’t have to compromise yourself. … In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you have to make a decision: to be or to do.”

-Col. John Boyd


     As I read through this I was thinking ‘What makes a visionary PMC/PSC CEO?’ You really don’t hear much about that kind of thing in our industry.  Although there is plenty of good stuff to learn from the military community, and that is why I wanted to post this.

     I also had that famous quote running through my head ‘to be, or to do…’ from the mighty Col. John Boyd. One of the points of this article is that the military has a hard time producing leaders that are there ‘to do’ the job, primarily because the system really doesn’t lend itself for that.  It is more restrained and not very flexible.  Everyone has a specific career track, with boxes that must be checked off. God help you if you draw outside the lines in this world, or dare to take a different path.

     The other point made was that of life experiences and preparation for the real world of being in the high command. That these guys are having to not only be masters of the combat arms and strategy, but must also be the ultimate ‘everyman’.  They could be working with civilians, talking with Rolling Stone reporters, hanging out with Presidents that could care less about winning wars and more about politics, working with disaster relief organizations in disaster zones, trying to manage a massive civilian contractor force and ‘building snowmobiles’ on a daily basis just to win the numerous political wars, as well as the real wars. Being a general these days is no joke.

     I would also apply the same standard to today’s CEO of PMC’s and PSC’s.  This is an incredibly fast paced and technological world we live in. In order to stay competitive, a company and it’s leaders must always stay ahead of the game and their competitors. At least in our industry, CEO’s either do well and keep the company profitable, or fail miserably and be kicked to the road.  The free market is what produces our ‘visionary commanders’.

     Good article and check it out. –Matt


The next Petraeus

What makes a visionary commander, and why the military isn’t producing more of them

By Renny McPherson

September 26, 2010

President Obama recently demoted General David Petraeus, the man who led the turnaround in Iraq and is widely acknowledged to be the most effective military officer of his generation.

In June, the president needed a new commander to lead the war effort in Afghanistan, after General Stanley McChrystal spoke too openly with a Rolling Stone reporter and was forced to resign. And, while few may realize this, when Petraeus was appointed to take over in Afghanistan, he was replacing a subordinate. Petraeus may yet be hailed for saving the day. But he also got a new boss and moved one step down the chain of command.

How does this happen to the best our military has to offer? Why was there no other general to take the job?

The short answer is that the US military has failed to produce enough leaders like Petraeus–the kind of broad-minded, flexible strategic thinkers needed to lead today’s most difficult missions. And a large contributor to this failure is the military’s inflexible system of promotion, which can actively discourage young officers from getting the mind-expanding, challenging experiences that could turn them into potent generals.

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Building Snowmobiles: Fifth Generation Warfare Blogs

     Today I was investigating 5th Generation Warfare, and the various thoughts about the concept.  I first started out with some stuff written by Colonel T.X. Hammes(thanks to scott for that article), and eventually ended up on these blogs through my searches.  I’m a blogger, so I guess I would naturally gravitate towards the blogging community to learn.  And low and behold, I stumbled upon these little gems.  

     They are called Dreaming 5 GW and Purple Slog(although not a specific 5GW blog), and there are some heavy duty concepts being laid down by the various authors of each.  Especially the use of OODA and the references to Boyd, and how 5 GW enters into the mix. I will let the reader explore for themselves.  Although I have to give you guys a taste of the kind of snowmobiles they are building.

    The author of Purple Slog developed some interesting 5 GW attack models, and the ones I got a kick out of was the Frog Boiling* and the Black Swan** method of 5GW. And what makes all of this interesting, is that blogs are what allow these individuals to network and exchange ideas about 5 GW.  A network about networks.  In essence, these thoughts about 5GW is slowly ‘boiling the frog’ of what conventional thoughts there are about 5GW.  And blogs are representations of individuals that are constantly learning and commenting about their subject, always evolving and always hammering away at the concepts like a blacksmith to steel.  Here you go, and enjoy.-Head Jundi


*The boiling frog story states that a frog can be boiled alive if the water is heated slowly enough — it is said that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will never jump out.

**An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult to predict. This term was popularized by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a finance professor and former wallstreet trader. 



A 5GWer will either take the path of Frog Boiling [4] or the path of Black Swan Hatching [5]. 

Frog Boiling

A Frog Boiling 5GW aims to make many small effects which lead to success. The planning will be iterative [6] and future actions will depend on lessons learned from the results achieved from the prior actions. By going slow, using many small actions, and relying upon N-order effects, the Frog Boiling 5GW hopes to get a successful end result without exposure to adversarial forces or without other perhaps even knowing a 5GW has taken place.

Black Swan

A Black Swan Hatching 5GW is designed using the waterfall method [7] to effect a Black Swan event [8] (or at least a major Systems Perturbation). This 5GW achieves its goals from either the Black Swan event itself or from reactions to the Black Swan event [9]. Secrecy is achieved by the tight knit, closed, top-down model of planning and control. The hope is that even if the 5GW effort is discovered, it will be after it is too late[10]. 

Purple Slog Blog

Dreaming 5GW Blog

Evolution and Timeline of 5GW 

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Building Snowmobiles: Pope John and The Supersonic Monastary

    This is a little old, but still a cool article.  It was written at the beginning of the year, and it is a dedication to ‘Pope John and his Supersonic Monastary’ (Col. John Boyd and his ideas). But most importantly, it is an article that focuses on what parts of Boyd’s ideas we have successfully used in this current war, and what leaders have been influenced by Boyd. It is a great read, and very easy to understand.

     Some of the things that I keyed in on, that I have never heard of before, was the Cockpit or Crew Resource Management(CRM) concept and how it is being used by various groups. I will touch more on this in future articles but in summary, CRM can be defined as a management system which makes optimum use of all available resources – equipment, procedures and people – to promote safety and enhance the efficiency of flight operations. Or share in the decision making process, so nothing is missed and the right decision is made to achieve the goal.  I think there is something there for our industry, and I will build that snowmobile in the future.  Enjoy the article below, and be sure to read the comments section too.  –Head Jundi


This is a story about success and failure. It is a story about Iraq, and of something much bigger than Iraq. It is, perhaps, a small look into what makes victory, and defeat. It is a tale of infantrymen, of brave soldiers in dusty alleys a world away. It is a story of generals and strategies, too.

But to understand our newfound success there, to know a little of how we achieved it and most importantly, how to keep it, we need to move away from that Mesopotamian desert and those boots on the ground, and back to a different desert on the other side of the world a half century ago. For there, a vision was vouchsafed to a most unlikely warrior priest… the kind of insight that comes once or twice in all of human history.

There are some diverse threads to connect here. But if you have the patience to take a walk with me, you may perhaps see things in a way you have not seen them before.

Part 1

Part 2 


Wikipedia for Cockpit Resource Management 

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Industry Talk: Thoughts on the OODA Loop, Paul Howe and Ken Good

     This article is a little old, but really interesting.  I first caught on to the whole OODA(Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) concept after reading Paul Howe’s book called ‘Leadership and Training for the Fight’.  Since then, I find myself applying those principals of OODA to my every day work, when overseas or home.   

      In a simplified version, of how I use it, this all relates to winning the fight.  You either can beat the enemy with speed or beat the enemy with surprise, or a little bit of both. And in this industry, beating the enemy means, keeping your client alive.  That ‘randomness’ and ‘unpredictability’ is a tool, that can totally help you accomplish this task. Also, the more you can isolate the enemy and keep them in the dark, the better your chances of survival and protecting your client. 

     And the various tricks of ‘observing’ and ‘orienting’ to compress the OODA loop, as described by Paul, was fascinating and really made sense to me.   I highly suggest studying OODA, and we can thank Col. John Boyd for developing such a concept.  We can also thank men like Ken Good and Paul Howe for their incredible interpretations of such concepts.

     On a side note, after reading the book, I had a brand new view point on binoculars and rifle optics.  I subsequently bought a Trijicon ACOG afterwards, and it has been one of the best purchases I have ever made for field work.  Here is a link for Paul’s book, a wiki entry on OODA Loop, and Ken Good’s article below.  I hope you enjoy. -Head Jundi 

Paul Howe book. 


From Wikipedia

The OODA Loop


Got a Second?
Boyd’s Cycle – OODA Cycle
Written by Ken J. Good , Director, Surefire Institute

Today?s environment of accelerating scientific discoveries and technological change bring ever-improving hardware to the end user.  In this climate is it easy to overlook and even abandon the core foundation of any weapon system, the interplay and perceptions of the human mind in a combative situation.

A man who understood this better than most was Col. John Boyd, USAF (Ret.) Col. Boyd was tasked with determining why American pilots in apparently inferior aircraft were consistently outmatching their Korean counterparts.  Air to air combat takes place in a 360-degree sphere and represents the pinnacle of the man and machine relationship coupled with the man on man dynamic warriors dream about. Read the rest of this entry »

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