How the OODA Loop Can Help You Lead in a Time of Crisis
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How the OODA Loop Can Help You Lead in a Time of Crisis

How the OODA Loop Can Help You Lead in a Time of Crisis

In a time of crisis, one thing our employees need most is for us to lead. Sure, multi-unit franchise owners and franchisor executives are leading every day. In new and unknown times, however, your people, community, and family need you to step up even more. They need you to be present and authentic, able to make decisions, and to communicate clearly (and often!), even if you do not have answers. 

What we learn from leaders is that in a time of crisis, decision-making can be the hardest part of being a leader. The reason is the uncertainty, the unknown, and of course, the ever-changing environment. Add to that the personal pressures leaders are feeling to ensure they and their families are safe and protected. However, it is exactly in times like this that leaders must be able to make decisions quickly, as well as trust their instincts.

Dr. Merlot (Loyd Rawls’ alter ego) recently shared some insights into how he has helped clients achieve this through the “OODA Loop.” Although Dr. Merlot would like to take credit, the OODA Loop was created by a military strategist named John Boyd, who also happened to be one of the greatest fighter pilots of all time.

As a US Air Force fighter pilot, military theorist, and key influencer in the development of low-cost fighter planes, Boyd has a deep understanding of leading under pressure. We do not have to be engaged in war to be in a crisis. As Dr. Merlot says, a crisis is a crisis. Here is what Boyd lays out for leaders to be able to problem-solve while under pressure, make decisions in times of uncertainty, and give their people confidence in the future.

  • Observe your circumstances. For example, you may not have any customers right now, or you have been ordered to shut down, not knowing when you will reopen.
  • Orient yourself to what is going on and stay calm.
  • Decide what you are going to do about it and have confidence in your instincts.
  • Act on your decisions.

The reason Boyd classified these four things as a loop is simple. As a leader you must work in the cycle to evaluate each step of the way. Take the time to observe the result of your action and ask yourself if it worked, how well it worked, or if perhaps you could have done it better. Orient yourself with that and decide what your next plan of action is going to be. When you get to the “A” in OODA, act, and then begin again.

As a multi-unit franchisee or franchisor executive, you have been doing this for years without knowing it. However, when a crisis hits it is common to question ourselves because of all the fear, anxiety, and unknowns around us. We have been through worse, we will go through worse, and with it all, remember, we’ve got this!

Kendall Rawls, a second-generation family member and employee of The Rawls Group – Business Succession Planners, understands the challenges of an entrepreneurial business firsthand. For more information, visit or email

Published: April 29th, 2020

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