I am out of the loopnote: I think this is one of the single most valuable pieces of information you will ever read for a grid-down event. When the violence is knocking at your door you better understand this concept or you will get killed. Yes, it is that important and I am that serious.

I am sure everyone has heard the saying “I was out of the loop on that” or some variant. Generally it is meant that a person wasn’t aware of something that was going on. However, the origins of the saying is a fascinating story itself. It goes back to the early Col John Boyd OODA Loop air force jet planes fighterdays of the Air Force and man by the name of John Boyd, a Colonel.

Col. Boyd developed this model to assist the training of military pilots. Dogfights occur at a very high speed in a three-dimensional environment. A pilot must not only have lightning fast physical reflexes, he must be able to out-think his opponent as well. To win a dogfight a pilot must be able to get his plane inside the decision loop of his opponent to line-up a kill shot…and do so without himself being shot down. It is a daunting task in the best of circumstances. And the speeds at which is occurs is unrealistic and unfathomable to most of us mere mortals.

Any high-stress, high-risk environment tends to be high-speed as well, or at least at critical points in time. A person must be able to function in that environment to the point of success. Failure to function successfully in these types of situations can lead to injury or death of yourself or someone else. Boyd developed a system that trains a person Col John Boyd developed the OODA loopon success under stress, in high-risk environments. That system is all about acquiring information, processing that information, making a decision, and then acting on that decision.


The decision making model he developed is called OODA.

That is an acronym for; Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.


Broken down it means –

  • Observation of the raw information on which decisions and actions are based.
  • Orient the information to your situation and environment.
  • Decide a course of action.
  • Act quickly and decisively.

While it would be convenient to allow those brief explanations stand on their own, it is impossible if you want to truly understand how it all works together for success.

One of the best explanations of the complete OODA cycle was by Harry Hillaker –

“The key is to obscure your intentions and make them unpredictable to your opponent while you simultaneously clarify his intentions. That is, operate at a faster tempo to generate rapidly changing conditions that inhibit your opponent from adapting or reacting to those changes and that suppress or destroy his awareness. Thus, a hodgepodge of confusion and disorder occur to cause him to over- or under- react to conditions or activities that appear to be uncertain, ambiguous, or incomprehensible.”

What I am understanding Hillaker to say is fairly simple – Embrace the confusion and use it to your advantage to defeat your enemy. I think I have that understood pretty clearly but that explanation is purely for a military or tactical situation.

What about when there is no person as an enemy?

How do you even describe “enemy” is these terms?

For this discussion I will revert back to our discussion on “objectives” as the enemy. We must “win” in terms of meeting the objective. If we can’t claim a “win” then we “lose.” Losing means that our objective was not met. And success in this arena is based on achieving our objectives, hence “losing” is the enemy.

To review the 2-part series on “objectives and priorities” that appeared on August 8th and 11th.

Based on the foundation I just laid out where there is no person as an enemy, there is no option to turn confusion against our enemy. Confusion in this sense only hurts our team and hinders the successful accomplishment of our objective. However, we can easily state with certainty that seeing through, and/or eliminating, any confusion would make attaining our objective far easier. We can now agree that we only need to go half way on the confusion issue, remove it vs. install it on our non-person enemy.

In retrospect haven’t we already started down the path of confusion elimination?

Back in Objectives and Priorities (Part #2), when we were given Leader’s Intent we can/did ask for clarification to ensure a solid foundation of understanding. On the other hand, if we are the one delivering Leader’s Intent we used the SMART model to clarify the task. So exactly what confusion is left to clear-up?ColJohnBoydOODA-003If you look closely at the OODA Loop you will notice that there is a very close relationship between the “OO” and the Situational Awareness. In plain English the “Observe” and “Orient” matches perfectly with the concept of Situational Awareness (SA). If your SA is good, your OO functioning correctly as well.

Situational Awareness & OODASo why the need for both?

There is a vital need, the OODA loop outlines the entire process along with explaining the “why.” The “why” being defeating your enemy, or accomplishing your objective(s). I see the OODA loop as a bridge between two more detailed systems –

  1. Situational Awareness
  2. Risk Management

If you go back to Hillaker’s explanation there is a key part “…operate at a faster tempo to generate rapidly changing conditions…” That integrates a true sense of urgency into the overall process. The need to move at a sufficient pace to outperform your enemy. Is it not reasonable to assume that if you outperform your enemy that you win?

Col John Boyd OODA loop jet fightersBut, what about dealing with an objective as the enemy?

When you consider the different aspects of an inanimate foe, the process can be both more difficult, and yet easier. When dealing with a person as a foe you have to assume many things about that person and hope you are right. A smart foe can do things entirely unpredictable which subsequently disrupts your SA and hence, the outcome. However, an inanimate objective can be almost as unpredictable, but it is lacking the ability to purposely be unpredictable. The end result is there are pluses and minuses to both situations, animate vs. inanimate foe. For this discussion we will focus on the inanimate foe, an objective.

Let’s review what the Swiss Cheese model of risk management looks like –

Swiss Cheese Risk Management You have any number of opportunities to stop an incident from occurring. Plugging just a single hole in any slice of cheese prevents the incident from ever occurring.

If you were to chart the OODA Loop process as consisting of a combination of Situational Awareness and Risk Management it would something like this.

Adding in Situational Awareness

Adding in Situational Awareness

Then adding in calculating the probability & severity aspect of the risk.

Then adding in calculating the probability & severity aspect of the risk.

Here we see the OODA loop link two systems that were previously envisioned as “stand alone.” While both of those systems were valuable and applicable, they did form a complete picture for our purposes. However, there is a third system that is still missing that carries considerable influence, if not total control, over everything – Leader’s Intent.

While some could argue that Leader’s Intent would be one of the “filters” of the SA process I would disagree. I think Leader’s Intent drives all of the systems from the very beginning. Thus I propose the proper graphic representation of the system should look more like this.

Leaders Intent OODA Situational AwarenessNonetheless I still maintain that the graphic reorientation is still lacking a key piece. No doubt that you would accomplish the object, but in the graphic it is implied, not explicit. And, depending on the situation you may or may not be able to undertake planning process formally, it may have to be done “on the fly” and not in written form. I am of course referring to planning as a key element.

In my way of thinking Situational Awareness is a more complete system/process to define and accomplish the observe and orient of the OODA loop. And, Risk Management encompasses the decide and act aspect of the OODA loop. Clear Leaders’ Intent drives the whole loop in harmony. How does planning work into the process?

Planning is actually a combination of orient and act parts of the OODA loop with a heavy influence of leader’s general eisenhowerintent. Have no doubt that planning will be a key element of any success in accomplishment of an objective. However, General Eisenhower said, 

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

What he was trying to get across through that statement was the fact that though the planning process we find the weaknesses, strengths, and alternatives to the environment in which we will operate. A good example of that is “combat loading” of ships. If you loaded a ship for an invasion such as D-Day the same way you would load a normal cargo ship, you would be doomed to failure.

Why? All the ammo would be loaded together in one area, all the trucks parked in another, tanks in another, Humvees it yet another area, etc.

As the invasion takes place do you need all the Humvees at one time? No. How about needing all the trucks at one time? No. And the same is true for tanks, ammo, medical supplies, etc. The military loads ships in a manner that the supplies come off in the order in which they are needed. You may only need 20 trucks at first, but you need 10 tanks before that, and 15 Humvees along with the tanks and trucks. But a sufficient amount of fuel, ammo, and medical supplies need to off-loaded with the appropriate vehicles. The planning process allows for the discovery of such issues and making the appropriate adjustments.

Another example would be the same situation of the actual invasion. The leader’s intent would be to secure town “x.” While in the planning process it becomes obvious which beach in the best to land on due to any number of factors. But, good planning demands that you have multiple alternatives. The same would be true for routes to get off the beach and to the town you are supposed to secure. Once again, in the planning process you are looking at maps that show the best/fastest way to reach the town. And yet again, you must have multiple alternatives in case your run into resistance or other obstacles with the primary route.

As the invasion unfolds different invading units run into problems getting off the beach for any number of reasons. However, since the planning process revealed multiple routes to the town, the local unit leaders can pick alternative routes as the battle unfolds. And, those choices can be made without running it up the chain of command because the optional routes are already in the plan…and approved. Hence, the local leader on the ground is still operating within the authorization given through leader’s intent.

Had there been no formal planning, the alternative routes would not have been identified ahead of time. The leader on the ground would have to discover the optional routes causing loss of time and jeopardizing successful completion of the objective.

Yet another revision of the entire process would look something like this…

LeadersIntent-004Do I have you confused by now?

How about…do I have your eyes glazed over yet?

That is obviously not my intention or objective.

What I do what you to think about is how to be successful when it comes to surviving after “grid-down” when all your prepping comes into play. But, surviving is a whole lot more than just beans, bullets, and band-aids! It is about how you become a successful prepper to become a successful survivor. And success depends on skills. No, not skill…SKILLS !

And you need to understand how to use systems such as OODA Loop, Situational Awareness, and Risk Management to improve your odds of success. If you can improve your odds of success in a grid-down situation, then it will be much easier for emergencies and disasters as well. But it all takes time, effort, and commitment.



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No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

Objectives and Priorities (Part #1)

how to set Priorities ObjectivesHave you ever wondered, “What do I do next?” Or, “Where do I start?

Have you ever asked either question about any project that loomed in front of you?

Well, this article is all about answering those questions with a rock-solid, bullet-proof system. And there is only one logical place to start – Leader’s Intent.

An easy way to understand what Leander’s Intent means is to ask this question, “What does success look like?” Yup, that easy. When we are done, and we are successful…what does that success look like?

Now, just for the record…this is no light reading! This is not a short article to dump some little tip out there. It is not some tidbit of info on radios or how to harvest onion seeds. This article is a heavy-duty, in-depth article that will take a lot of reading and thinking. Some of you may not be in the mood for it, I understand that. But the information contained in this article is rock solid information on how to get things done. And in emergencies, disasters, and especially during a grid-down…you better know how to operate effectively as a group to get things done. Failure will not be an option!

Here you go…

Under most circumstances a single leader will define that “intent” for the group. They will outline what the Leadership during emergencies, disasters and grid-down teotwawkisuccessful outcome will be, or what it will look like. Yes, a good leader will also take input from all team members and allow everyone the opportunity to participate in defining that outcome. If they are a good leader they won’t, or shouldn’t, get into the details, they should only set the “goal” or the “vision.” The details are left to the individual experts that will be assigned tasks (objectives) within the project.

Whomever the leader is must be very clear and specific about what the “success” actually looks like. This is sometimes referred to as “end-state.” While latitude in accomplishing objectives is encouraged for team members, the leader must make their intent, or end-state, very plain so everyone fully understands it. This will also allow subject matter experts (SME) a significant opportunity to provide appropriate and valuable input during the planning process…and virtually a free hand during the implementation stage.

Once the team understands the end-state, they can work on individual objectives for the team. Sometimes this might be limited to a core of individuals who will be ultimately carrying out the action or mission. Other members of the team may only be responsible for providing support, so their participation in the primary planning would be limited. Their input/participation would come later in a meeting where it was determined if the whole team could “support the plan.”

Here is an example of Leader’s Intent –

“We will plant a garden large enough to provide at least 50% of all our vegetable needs the first year and 75% of all our vegetable needs the second year.”

From that statement there should be no confusion concerning the “end-state” or what “success looks like.” If there is confusion there are two options; 1) the leader continues to share their vision and information until all team members come to a full understanding, 2) Leader’s Intent is modified to meet the capabilities of the team.

Technically there could be a third option as well. If there is a single team member that is not comprehending the end-state, that person could be replaced with someone that does. I would caution against that option. Let me explain why.

The members of the team are there for a reason, hopefully due to their expertise in one or more areas of Team Membersgardening. If that knowledge is sufficient in breadth and depth, then they could/should be considered subject matter experts (SME). While the end-state is being discussed an SME raised concerns or confusion, the leader would be well-served to reevaluate their end-state vision. The leader may need to look at the realistic expectation of the end-state. If an end-state is unrealistic, an SME will usually raise that question. A leader or team ignores those SME concerns at their own peril.

Realistic End-State –

How do you determine if an end-state is realistic? To answer that question you fallback to a time tested set of parameters, “who, what, where, when.” Go back to the leader’s intent statement, or end-state. With that statement in mind, formulate the question –

“With the people we have and with what resources we have, can we accomplish that goal within the time and location we have been given?”

If the answer is anything but a resounding “Yes!” you might want to seriously review the leader’s intent as being realistic…or not. That is not to say that the team may not have to stretch their capabilities, or expand their own personal vision a little, but the question still stands…Is the end-state realistic?

If it is deemed not realistic then the immediate goal now becomes to find out why not. It may be a simple matter of the team lacking confidence in itself. Or, it may be there are just not enough resources to accomplish the task. And therein lies one of the keys to this issue, lack of resources. Customarily, the only reason a team cannot accomplish the desired end-state is due to a lack of resources. The “lack of” may be perceived or real. By that I mean that there is actually a lack of available resources to accomplish the end-state, or the team simply thinks that there is a lack of resources. That is a leader’s conundrum that the leader is responsible for deciding and should have both the ability and wherewithal to do so.

If a team member, preferably an SME, raises the Who-What-When-Where-How-and-Why-001question of the end-state being unrealistic, go down the list of questions: – Is the end-state realistic with:

  • who, the people we have to work with?
  • what, the resources that we can use?
  • where, in the location(s) in which we will work on the mission?
  • when, in the time-frame we’ve been given?
  • how, did we choose the right way to do this task?

It is important to do this formally and systematically to specifically identify where the team is lacking. Without addressing each of the questions above, the team will simply flounder in project failure.

Project – “Move 125 trees from the logging area to the cabin area to complete the structures before the snow falls this weekend.”


  • Who – We have 10 people, adults of varying age.
  • What – We 125 trees that average 80′ in length and we have 1 truck and 1 SUV (both are 2-wheel drive).
  • Where – We must haul them over muddy roads that have been exposed to rain for two weeks..
  • When – We have to have the trees moved in 5 days.
  • How – We must drag the trees with truck & SUV.

Problem raised:MUddyRoad-001

  • The roads are already muddy and the vehicles are only 2-wheel drive. The trucks will probably get stuck trying to drag the trees up the mountain from the logging site to the cabin site.

To problem solve this the team must start brainstorming the four “W” areas mentioned. And, you go about it in the exact same order as outlined above.

  1. With two vehicles that wouldn’t get stuck, could we do it with enough people?
  2. If we had more vehicles could we get this done?
  3. If we had vehicles that could operate off-road could we get this done?
  4. If we had more time could we get this done?

Since it is not just mission accomplishment we are looking for, we are also looking for safety, effectiveness, and efficiency.

Example #1: Yes, we could get this done if we just used people to carry the logs and not use vehicles. And we would have to find 150 more people. Obviously not efficient and probably not very effective. So, the number of people becomes the problem. The initial “yes” becomes a “no” because we can’t find the people and even if we could, it wouldn’t be efficient.

Example #2: No, simply having more vehicles won’t help us accomplish this mission unless they are 4-wheel drive and large enough. Once again, we can spot that the option of more vehicles won’t help unless they are a specific type. The option of simply more vehicles lends itself to being ineffective.

Example #3: Yes, if we could accomplish the if one of two conditions could change; 1) we can accomplish the mission in another location where 2-wheel drive vehicles can operate successfully, 2) we could use 4-wheel drive vehicles that are large enough. And for this conversation let’s say that moving the location isn’t feasible.

Example #4: No, we don’t have more time to accomplish the mission, it must be accomplished within the time-frame set down because the snow will expose the families to the incoming deadly weather.

You have probably already mentally resolved the problem in your head but let me ask the obvious…What-001

“What is the solution?”

Since you can’t change the location of the mission you must acquire 4-wheel drive vehicles that are large enough for the task. And since you can’t change the time-frame, you have to ensure that you acquire enough vehicles to get the job done. But no more than 10 vehicles, because you only have 10 people; assuming each person could drive a vehicle.

Let’s return to the end-state’s “realistic” question, the answer would be “no” unless the team could acquire the 4-wheel drive vehicles first. Without those 4-wheel drive vehicles, the end-state is completely unrealistic. That being the case a whole new end-state, or mission, must be decided on.

Setting Objectives –

Let’s continue the discussion above and assume that the end-state must be met, that the time-frame is fixed, and you only have the people already on-hand to work with. What is your first objective?

It should be to acquire 4-wheel drive vehicles. If you can accomplish that acquisition then the rest of the mission is within the team’s realm of capabilities. But how do you go about setting that objective? The same way you go about setting any objective – S.M.A.R.T.

The SMART system of defining objectives has been around a long time. The general SMART system is attributed to Peter Drucker, and first appears in print is Management Review by George T. Doran as he was discussing “management by objectives.” The SMART system has been contorted over the years to meet personal opinion and specific situations, I will do the same here.

As I will use the term, SMART means –

  • SpecificSMART objectives
  • Measurable
  • Action
  • Realistic/Relevant
  • Time-frame

Let me break down each one in detail:

Specific – The end result must be very specific in nature. There can be no room for error in what must be accomplished. The clarity must be understood and agreed to by all parties; the person making the assignments and the people that will carry out those assignments.

Measurable – You must be able to clearly determine that the result has been achieved, or not. It must be easily and readily apparent when the result has been accomplished. And the measurement system must be known by those involved. An objective without a way to measure the success can potentially result in a “completed” assignment that is not successful.

Action – An action must be present. The person(s) given the assignment must be responsible for carrying out some kind of act in the accomplishment of the objective. If the objective doesn’t contain an action, then the people assigned that objective have little to no control over its success or failure.

Realistic/Relevant – The objective being assigned must be realistic within the scope of training, experience, and skills, of the assigned resources. Consideration must be given to the objective vs. the person(s) assigned the objective and their potential for success in that assignment. The action that the people will carry out must be 100% relevant to the accomplishment of the mission.

Time-frame – The action for successful accomplishment of the objective must have enough time in which to complete it. The time allotted for the successful accomplishment of the objective must be sufficient in length, clearly stated, and realistic.

Here would be an example of a poor objective:

“We will plant a garden because we need the fresh food. Let’s go get that done.”

Here would be an example of a properly formed objective preceded by clear leader’s intent:

“We are short on fresh food, a garden can solve that problem. We will plant a garden that is two acres in size, consisting of a variety of foods to meet our dietary needs. We must have the garden soil ready for planting in 10 days, seeds planted within 5 days after that. Individual families will be assigned rows to keep them free of weeds. Those same families will keep plants watered on a daily basis or as needed.”

The “intent” is clear – Planting a garden will provide fresh vegetables.Garden for teotwawki

The objective(s) meet the SMART criteria using clear tasks, time-frames, and relating each action to be taken to the overall intent of the project.

Of course, once this have been laid out specific tasks would be assigned to meet each major objective of; soil readiness, seeds planted, watering, and weeding.

The process for setting objectives must be clear and used by all team members. The leader is responsible for laying out clear “intent” and overall “objective(s).” Subordinates are responsible for developing the tasks (also objectives) to meet that intent based on priorities.

And tomorrow I will finish up this article by going over “setting priorities” and how that fits with SMART objective setting.

Yeah, originally I was going to have this just be a single article…but it just grew too large for a single post. I hope you are getting something out of this…it has taken me 30+ years of incident management experience and training to learn all of this.


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without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
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