If you know me, you know that I consider decision making an integral part of leadership. You also know how much I enjoy watching movies. While not a movie, Band of Brothers is a favorite of mine. There is a quote that continues to resonate with me: “He wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions, he was a bad leader because he made no decisions.” Band of Brothers is not a documentary, so I mean no slight to anyone portrayed in the series; instead, that quote is a concept of leadership that, in my judgment, is worthy of exploration – albeit in this case less than 500 words!
There is a lot to unpack in that quote, but I want to focus on how a leader, or crisis team, not just makes a decision but indeed makes a good decision. Or at least the best decision given the information available. Have you heard of John Boyd? A fascinating story of a fighter pilot who earned a degree in aeronautical engineering and designed planes for the Air Force and subsequently turned those theories into military strategy (the link below is to an excellent biography). I am not an expert on his O-O-D-A Loop, nor is this a detailed paper on employing it. I want to discuss one aspect of Boyd’s theory.
Decision making is a skill, and it can be learned and exercised. A critical component of O-O-D-A is making observations, gathering input, and using observations to craft decisions. How quickly a leader or a team can collect, analyze and then synthesize that data leads to improved decision making. It can be challenging to wait for those inputs while a disruptive event unfolds (remember patience from the previous post). Strong leaders and groups understand that not all decisions are made with 100% certainty but, strong leaders and groups can make impactful decisions if they collect inputs. The skill is how quickly a team understands the impact those inputs have on a situation, in this case, a disruptive event, and how much data they need before making that decision. Circumstances dictate how decisions are made and with how much certainty. A cohesive, highly functioning team will make decisions quicker and quicker with more practice, and they become more comfortable with uncertainty. That ability to quickly process inputs is the first part of the O-O-D-A Loop and, in my experience, the most critical.Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War a book by Robert Coram (bookshop.org)