OODA – Easy Decisions and Easy Actions

I was thinking about the many decisions that we make and the actions that we choose, as well as the actions that we choose not to take, and how those actions can change our defensive posture in significant ways. What I find amazing is how lazy many people can be when protecting themselves only takes a few seconds in most cases.


To illustrate the issue, let’s look at some scenarios, but let’s look at the OODA loop, first.

  • Observe – We use our senses to get information from our surroundings. In some cases, we observe something is not “normal” and it makes us more aware of our surroundings.
  • Orient – We orient our senses to focus on what we just observed, which is usually something different from normal. We focus our attention on the observation. We analyze the situation, and evaluate the options available to us. The analysis and options are the results of our training and experience.
  • Decide – We observed something, and have given it our attention and analyzed it. The next step is to decide what we are going to do, if anything, in response.
  • Act – Finally, we act, based on our decision.

OODA is a loop in that our actions can change the observations, or there may be other observations, and we continue to go though the steps of the loop. The loop may continue for several cycles.


Let’s apply the OODA loop to some scenarios and see what easy decisions and easy actions we can take.

Scenario 1: You are in your home, and you hear a loud noise.CowsComeHome 

Reaction: Most people will perk up for a second or two and listen. “Hmm… must have been the cat” is a typical reaction, and then the typical person will go back to whatever they were doing before. That covers Observe and Orient. Of course, it could be simply that the cows smacked into the side of the garage or the horse barn. Yeah, I know, you probably don’t have cows. Yes, it might have been the cat. So, you settle back down to your TV show or your book, and just ignore the noise. In many cases, the analysis is that there is nothing to worry about. The decision to do nothing requires no action. However, you may decide to do something in response and take action.

EDEA (Easy Decision, Easy Action): So, the easy decision and easy action is simply to grab a good flashlight (please read about using hand held lights) to investigate. How much time will it take from your life to make sure it was just the cat? Does it take significant effort? What if it is somebody trying to break in? How much noise do they need to make before you will get off your ass and check it out? Out on the ranch, we are a bit more vulnerable as the nearest neighbor is a good ways away, and the Sheriff’s Department would be lucky to be only 20-30 minutes away. So, in my case, I will investigate, with a good light, and a handgun which is never far from me at all times. If the noise is outside, I will turn on all of the external flood lights. An easy decision and easy action that takes seconds might be what saves me and my wife from an intruder by identifying the intruder early on. Of course, if you identify an intruder, then we will go through another OODA loop.

Scenario 2: You need to make a quick run to the store for some flour. In the parking lot, you observe a couple of people wandering around the parking lot talking to customers and you focus on them to see what they are doing. We can see that we have options when it comes to what we will do if approached. This is a good example of training and experience impacting our analysis. Many people do not understand issues with distances and reaction times, and how potential threats use transitional spaces. 

Reaction: Yeah, we do it all the time. We turn off our car, get out and we go into the store. After buying our flour, we head back out to our car. If somebody walks up to us, we just ignore then and continue to go to our car. In this case, the decision is to ignore them, and the action is to just continue on as if they don’t exist. If they start telling us a story, we might even stop and listen to them. Well, now, we have a new observation and orient on their story and analyze the options available to us. By the way, the last time I ran into this scenario, it was a guy complaining that his brother ditched him and he needed money so he could take an Uber home. Yeah, right.

EDEA: You may not know it, but that person in the parking lot may be interviewing you to see if you are a good potential victim. You can choose to carry your flour in your weak hand, leaving your strong hand available for any actions you may need to take. That is a one second decision, at best, and the action of moving the flour to your weak hand is a simple action. You can also choose to stop the person from getting close to you and making it clear that you will have nothing to do with them. For example, in the last case where the guy was complaining about his brother, I put my hand up in the universal “stop” sign, and told him, “Keep your distance, I want nothing to do with you.” My decision to address him, and taking the action to address him and warn him off, made it clear to him that I was fully engaged in the situation. While it may appear rude to some people, it makes it clear that you are not a good victim, so they will probably move on. However, if they continue, now you have another OODA loop to process. In an escalation, I now have my strong arm free to strike, pull a knife that is clipped onto my pocket, or, in an extreme case, draw a handgun. Of course, based on my observation and orienting on the individual and situation, I may choose to keep the flour in my strong hand and use it as an impact weapon, if needed.

Scenario 3: You are cut off in traffic and need to slam on your brakes. The other driver starts “communicating” with you. You see that he is pissed off and you gauge his emotional level and analyze his behavior. You review your options.

Reaction: You may do what many people do: communicate back at them. You may choose to ignore them. In each case, you make a decision and take action.

EDEA: Perhaps it is a better decision to not just ignore them, but to take the next turn or exit, and totally disengage from them.  While this may seem to be a significant decision and action, it really doesn’t take much effort, and it does not take much time out of your day. At this point, if they try to follow you, then something is seriously wrong. This would be another OODA loop, and it may be time to make a call to 911 to report a road rage person that is following you. What you have done, at this point, is identify how serious a threat this person is to you by making that easy decision and taking easy action. Continuing to drive down the road may not be a good decision and action as it may come across as provoking to them, and they may decide to continue to cause problems on the road that may make them more of a threat to you, and others, on the road.

Easy Decision and Easy Action

We really should make the easy decision and take easy actions that will put us in a better position to avoid a threat or at least put us in a better position to stop a threat. Choosing to not do anything is a very bad idea, in many cases.

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