The OODA Loop, a decision-making technique developed by the US Air Force for combat operations, is a helpful framework for troubleshooting. By following the four phases of the OODA Loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act – and repeating the process if necessary, you can break down complex problems into manageable steps and make informed decisions to find a solution.
Here’s how to apply the OODA Loop to troubleshooting:
Observe: The first step is to observe the problem. Gather as much information as possible about the issue, including symptoms, errors, and messages. What else do you know about the problem? When did it start? What is the scope of the problem? What other pertinent information can you gather at this early stage? During this phase, it’s essential to focus on gathering quantity over quality. The more information you have in the beginning, the better. Leave to the decision phase on what to do with all this information.
Orient: Once you have observed the problem, the next step is to orient yourself to the expected or desired state of the system. This phase may be straightforward if you are troubleshooting something familiar. You can use your knowledge of the system to determine the normal state. However, you will need to gather information if the troubleshooting is in an unfamiliar system. The system’s end-users are often the best source of information, but documentation can also be helpful. In some cases, you may need to infer some things.
Decide: With the information gathered during the observation and orientation phases, it’s time to decide on an action plan. Keep in mind that, at this point, it is not a 100-step action plan that is sure to solve the problem. Don’t forget that we are working on a loop here. Plan something straightforward and easy to implement, just a single step to help you move further in the process. Make incremental changes, and reevaluate before moving forward.
Act: With the plan in place, it’s time to take action. Implement the plan and take the necessary steps. This could involve changing a setting, restarting a service, enabling more detailed logging in the application, or adding a breakpoint somewhere. Whatever you decided in the previous phase, do it.
Repeat: If the problem persists, enter the loop again and go through all the phases. As you observe the problem again, ask yourself if anything has changed. What is different at this moment? During the orientation phase, you need to understand the cause and effect of the problem. How did your changes during the last interaction cause the observed behaviour? Does that make sense? Have you seen similar problems? Can you infer any conclusions from what you observe? Based on your findings, decide what to do next. You may already know enough to try to implement a solution, or you may need to gather more information. Act again and return to the loop as necessary until you find a solution.
Remember, the OODA Loop is a continuous process that allows you to quickly and effectively tackle complex problems by breaking them down into manageable steps. Using this framework, you can make informed decisions based on the information you gather, act on those decisions, and continually re-evaluate until you find a solution. So, next time you’re faced with a troubleshooting challenge, try applying the OODA Loop to guide your decision-making. You can improve your problem-solving skills and become more effective at finding solutions with practice. Give it a try and see how it works for you!