Thursday, September 15, 2011

Continuous Management

Continuous Management is one of two key C2/GOMA principles. It is based on the OODA Loop concept, which states, “A work of any active element in a management system can be considered as an information transformation process that goes through 4 distinct states: Observe, Orient, Decide and Act”. In this post I will discuss active elements, the OODA Loop, and Continuous Management in C2/GOMA.

Active Elements (or Decision Making Entities) are system elements that actively contribute to a management process. They can be a person, a group of people, an automated Decision Support System, a robot, or a low-level microcontroller.

The Continuous Management principle gives us a universal model to look at the work of any active element In the OODA Loop cycle (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act):

  • Observe: The active element receives initial information from the outside world (viewed world).
  • Orient: The active element interprets the information and makes certain conclusions (understood world).
  • Decide: The active element creates an action plan based on its goals and interpreted situation (action plan).
  • Act: The active element acts upon the plan by either taking action or delegating actions to other active elements. The actions performed then cause changes in the system and the environment (produced results).
  • Observe: The active element receives new information from the outside world with changes caused by previous actions and external factors.
  • Orient: The active element interprets the information, compares it to expectations, and makes certain conclusions.
  • Decide: The active element then makes adjustments to the action plan, or generates a new plan if the previous one was accomplished (or if it failed).
  • Act: The active element performs a new set of actions or delegates them to other active elements, and then--
  • The cycle repeats over and over again.

Here you can see the distinct methods of the OODA Loop being done, performed by an active element at any given state, that we call “Management Functions.” There are four different types of Management Functions:

  • Observation Functions: obtain initial information from the outside world, perform a preliminary check, and consolidate similar information received from different sources.
  • Orientation Functions: interpret information, apply it to expectations (plans), and make conclusions.
  • Decision Functions: generate or adjust an action plan.
  • Execution Functions: execute or delegate actions while making potential minor adjustments to accommodate for possible situation changes.

While looking at these functions and steps, it is important to understand that the OODA Loop is not a machine that creates states. The states represent stages in the information processing flow. All the states are active at the same time, which is illustrated by the following figure:

The OODA Loop is a constant process continually moving.

There is one more interesting fact to look at. Many of you probably know about the following pyramid model: Data - Information - Knowledge - (Results):

  • Data - raw unprocessed information
  • Information - processed, interpreted, relevant information
  • Knowledge - actionable information, action plans
  • Results - post-actionable information, effects of planned actions

If you relate those information categories to the states in the OODA Loop you can see that they map really well.

This fact is another confirmation that the OODA Loop can describe the information processing flow in any management system that turns raw information into actions and results.

So, why is Continuous Management so important to C2/GOMA?

When people develop management automation, they perform a lot of analysis. By doing that, they extract management functions and implement them. But when those functions are put together, they may not fit each other and the management reality seamlessly. As a result, the created management systems become incomplete, have numerous gaps, and do not address the organization’s problems well.

To improve, a different step than analysis must be made--synthesis. The Continuous Management principle uses the OODA Loop as a synthetic model to put different management functions together, link them in a natural flow, reconstruct the entire system, and then see how it works as a whole.

By doing this, the Continuous Management principle helps to eliminate the gaps in automation for an individual Decision Maker. It provides management functions and the required information, promoting a continuous flow to deal with gaps in information and functionality. Then, by providing management functions that are able to work alongside each other, moving information at different stages simultaneously, it covers the gaps in time between business processes. The principle of Continuous Management, with the OODA Loop and active elements, will greatly aid any organization’s management automation.

If you have any questions, I invite you to comment with them below.

1 comment:

  1. I would be very excited to see a working model of C2/GOMA. The principles are intriguing and it is very easy to see the benefits of implementing these principles into a system. I understand the different pieces and how they work to create a continuous management system. I will not lie and say that at times my brain becomes overwhelmed thinking about how to physically implement a system with these features. The flexibility, maintainability, scalability, and concept of having "plug and play" management systems all working to achieve a goal does sound difficult, but also sounds like an exciting and rewarding problem to solve.