In security, the goal is for the good guys to be faster than the bad guys in every way. That is how we prevent violence and crime from happening, by making observations, making decisions and taking action faster than the criminal can. This concept of operational speed is often summed up with the guidance to execute the OODA loop more quickly than the insurgents, terrorists and criminals we are hunting. I’ve found that, while this advice to be faster has become fairly common, the understanding of how to actually speed up the OODA loop is not as well understood.
Being able to complete all four steps in the “Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act” cycle before the enemy can complete those same steps is easier said than done. We want to reach the act stage before the criminal does so that we can have the upper hand and force our enemy to begin reacting to us. Every time we do this, we cause the criminal to reset his planning cycle and go back to step one. While the action is the ultimate goal, it isn’t something that we can just jump to without first going through the entire process.
If we spend too long trying to become 100% certain that we have oriented on specific people, we can’t begin deciding which action to take. If we don’t know what to look for or what makes someone a threat other than visually seeing a weapon, we will never proceed past step one. To make decisions and take action more quickly, we have to become better at the orient step of the OODA loop. Observation and orientation, in simple terms, allow for the ability to transition from looking at the crowd as a whole to being able to focus on a specific person or group of people.
Because speed is a relative term (how fast good guys can do this compared to bad guys) we have to reflect on the fact that the enemy has a much easier job at orienting on us because we constantly stand out from the crowd. Marines, Soldiers and police officers are wearing a uniform, which makes it easy for the enemy to figure out exactly who and where we are. Executive protection teams have to defend well-known public figures, making it easy to identify them. A criminal does not have to strain himself to identify the corporate security officers who not only has to wear a uniform but are also standing at the building entrance near what is a clearly marked security desk. The enemy can orient on us with much less effort, providing him with opportunities to take the initiative and develop detailed plans of attack.
This issue of the CP Journal is focused on how to negate the enemy’s inherent advantage and how we can use behavior to execute this OODA loop process more quickly than the criminal can. The four categories of observable behavior (looking at individuals, groups, the environment, and the collective) are situational and can’t all be observed all of the time. Which domains are going to provide you with the highest quality of information is going to depend on what information you are trying to collect. The articles inside this issue highlight these skills and observations in situations that you are likely to find yourself in.
As you read the articles in this issue, keep the OODA loop in mind and the perspective of steps that you can take to make decisions more quickly than our enemy can and maintain control of the fight. As military, law enforcement, and security professionals, we often spend our time training and practicing the skills needed during the action phase of the OODA loop and gloss over the crucial observation skills that allow us to take action on our terms.
However, without informed observations and intelligent analysis, decisions can’t be made and action can’t be taken to defeat the criminal, insurgent and terrorist networks. The difference between making observed arrests and waiting for dispatch to let you know where a crime occurred comes down to your ability to orient on specific people after recognizing the often subtle cues that attract your attention. This ability is what will allow you to shift from scanning the crowd to analyzing a specific person. For those looking to excel in their chosen profession, that is where speed comes from.
Thanks for reading and welcome to the CP Journal.
.Patrick Van Horne