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PDCA Cycle vs OODA loop

Go to solution Solved by subodh tripathi,

PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) Cycle is an iterative methodology used for continuous product and/or process improvements. It is specifically useful for testing improvements on a smaller scale before full scale implementation. It is also known as Deming circle, Shewhart cycle and PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act).


OODA (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) Loop is a four step decision making process that is used to assimilate available information and then decide on the next steps. The steps can be repeated again as and when more information becomes available.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Mohamed Asif and Subodh Tripathi.


Applause for all the respondents - Brij K Chandiramani, Aji Lal, Subodh Tripathi, Sahil Anand, Mohamed Asif


Q 334. Compare and contrast PDCA cycle with OODA loop.


Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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The PDCA cycle or loop is mainly an empirical technique that can be used in a fully internal way with great success where there is largely a full data set. To make the PDCA loop work, one does not have to consult the external environment or adapt to unfolding circumstances. With the knowledge that is available, PDCA can be used with great success on the factory or laboratory floor. Analysis in PDCA requires the use of a more or less comprehensive collection of data to draw efficient conclusions. To confirm or deny the hypothesis that our research has led us to, we use the data to make a decision about how to proceed, then we verify and act. This supports Continuous Improvement's structure and criteria.


You can solve problems and execute solutions in a systematic, methodical way using the PDCA loop. Let's look in turn at each of the four stages:


1. Plan: Identify the problem or opportunity first. Perhaps the quality of a finished product is not high enough, or better outcomes should be an aspect of the marketing process. Explore in detail the available information. Generate ideas and screen them and establish a detailed implementation plan. Be sure to mention and make the success criteria as observable as possible. Later in the Check Point, you can return to them.

2. Do: Test it safely with a small-scale pilot project until you've found a possible solution. This will illustrate whether your planned changes produce the desired result, or they did not, with minimal disruption to the rest of your service. For instance, within a department, in a small geographical region, or with a specific population, you might arrange a trial. Gather details as you run the pilot project to demonstrate whether or not the change succeeded. In the next step, you'll use this…

3. Check: Next, review the outcomes of your pilot project against the goals you established in Phase 1, to determine whether your concept was a success. If not, go back to Stage 1. If so, move on to Step 4. You may decide to try more changes and repeat the phases of Do and Check. But if your original idea obviously does not succeed, you're going to need to go back to Phase 1.

4. Act: This is where you get your solution applied. But note that PDCA/PDSA is a loop, not a beginning-and-end process. The new baseline becomes your improved method or product, but you continue to search for ways to make it even better.



OODA loop is more concerned with synthesizing an action from a data set that is incomplete. Since we are required to deal with all the variables in any environment such as COVID-19 that cannot be recognized, we must therefore be able to make a decision that we think will give us the highest likelihood of success and therefore reduce and eliminate any possible operational risk. The following are the steps of OODA loop:


1. Observe: The first step is to recognize the issue or threat and to develop an overall awareness of the internal and external environment. This can be equated with data collection in the business sector, where all the information is gathered about the existing organizational state, any rivals and the market. Recognizing that the world is dynamic is the main point in the observation process. In time, all information is a snapshot and must be viewed as such. Therefore, in order to be prepared to make decisions based on it, organizations must obtain whatever information is available as soon as possible.

2. Orient: The orientation stage includes reflecting on what was observed during observations and taking into account what should be done next. In order to make a conscious decision, it needs a substantial degree of situational consciousness and awareness. Since some decisions are unconscious or instinctual, prior to choosing a course of action, this step includes understanding what and why decisions are made. The orientation phase can be accomplished when applied to an individual level by developing mental models or mental rehearsal drills to put knowledge into narratives that influence judgment. With machine learning (ML) software, situational models can be generated in organizational applications to classify possible effects while eliminating any bias.

3. Decide: The decision process makes recommendations for an action or response plan, taking all possible consequences into account. This can be done by meetings or conversations that concentrate on developing a roadmap for the company as a whole.

4. Act: The action relates to the implementation of the decision and the associated improvements which need to be made in response to the decision. This phase may also involve any checks, such as compatibility or A/B testing, that are required before an action is officially carried out.



Comparison and Contrast:


People sometimes fall into the trap of seeing the OODA loop as a part of, or vice versa, the PDCA loop. The PDCA is primarily involved in analyzing, perhaps using some synthesis, while OODA is primarily involved in synthesizing using all possible empirical data points, but realizing that the data set would still be mostly incomplete. The unpredictable environment in which we find ourselves these days. is increasingly demanding greater tenacity and dynamism in terms of how we behave proactively and also the growing importance of being able to fluidly alter plans and responses based on the emerging changes we see around us (which are frequently outside of our control).



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PDCA Plan, Do, Check, Act (Starts with Planning phase)

OODA Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (Starts with Observation)


                           PDCA                              OODA
Feedback is received after completion of cycle Feedback is received almost at all phases ( Orient, Decide, Act )
Focuses on the operational / tactical requirements  Focuses on strategic requirements
Pioneered by William Deming in 1950s Developed in the mid-20th century by military strategist
PDCA Cycle is more of an analytical approach OODA is  concerned with synthesizing an action out of an incomplete data set. 
PDCA is more moving from a reactive problem fixing model to a proactive one More Reactive - Implies on how to react to changes in circumstances and take new actions as quickly as possible.
Used to take Preemptive measures Used widely for Incident response
Usually longer cycles, iterative approach Usually short cycle and done in real-time


PDCA is used extensively in Software development lifecycle, healthcare Industry, manufacturing and Service industries for new product development, for Project Management, and for Change Management.

OODA is commonly adopted in business, game theory, information security, law enforcement, litigation, marketing and military strategy. 


OODA is essentially the same as the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” principle that is fundamental to all ongoing process improvement initiatives. Extended version of PDCA is OPDCA, "O" stands for Observation, it starts with Observing the current conditional and proceeds with planning, which is quite similar to that of OODA approach.


               PDCA (Benefits)                OODA (Benefits)
The iterative approach allows control and analysis

Enables quicker, more streamlined decision processes.


Powerful and Straightforward Tool and provides greater efficiency and effectiveness

Brings more organizational transparency and situational awareness.


          PDCA (Disadvantages)

          OODA (Disadvantages)

The unspecific definition can lead to incorrect use

It can be difficult to understand or interpreted in various ways.


Paralysis By Analysis, Changes must be planned over longer periods of time Can make it harder to “undo” a mistake.


When we use both concepts together, PDCA and OODA, we would have higher quality level while making critical decisions. From a lean perspective OODA is similar to that of PDCA, but from CAPD order (Check, Act, Plan and Do)

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PDCA is an integrated process for Planning, Continuous Monitoring, Coaching OTJ, and finally assessing. This can be applied to any Project, Annual Business or Performance Plan.

OODA is a decision making process in response to a decision situation. It can also be tailored to a Problem Solving situation.


Within a larger PDCA cycle, there may be multiple opportunities to apply OODA.

 - Brij


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Deming used PDCA cycle as a primary tool for drawing organizational fitness. Deming was very concerned with getting the most out of a system and using inferential statistics as a guide and measurement system to achieve this.

Boyd used what he called the OODA loop that is Observe, Orient, Decide & Act to describe how an individual or an organization should react to changes in circumstances and take new actions as quickly as possible. 
Both the theories are widely accepted in industry. 

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