Monday 10 July 2017

Empower yourselves! Speak up in libraries with the OODA Loop

Hey! Thanks to everyone who helped us get to Aarhus in June to help deliver an interactive workshop - Connection through Collection -  with Rob Bruinjzeels and Joyce Sternheim of the Ministry of Imagination. 

In early July we also gave a presentation at the CILIP conference. Here's the presentation (with the transcript below) and some more recommended reading.

Good reads

I have to Change to Stay the Same by Rob Bruinjzeels

Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within

By Lois Kelly, Carmen Medina

Rocking the Boat and Staying in it - Slidedeck by Helen Bevan

OODA Loops, Maeuver Theory and the Tactics of Survival: How John Boyd and the US Marines can Aid Libraries Bidding for Relevance and Indispensability by Jim Jatkevicius, Public Libraries, Vol 46, no 3.

Empowering Staff Transcript

Slide 1: Quick Question show of hands: How many here in the last week, have stamped a book, shelved a book, served a member of the public or a customer?

Slide 2: This is Richard at Accrington Library singing “With a Moo-Moo here and a Moo-Moot there” one of the favourite parts of his job. He left education with an A level, worked in offices and the service industry for 10 years. He started work as a library assistant 2002 at Colne and now works at Ingol, as a library assistant. He has yet to be seduced by the power and salary of a management position which is a pretty impressive achievement if you think about it!

Slide 3: Sue started in libraries as a volunteer whilst unemployed. Then offered a job as an assistant by Salford Public Libraries in 1993. Studying by day release she qualified as a librarian in 1999 and found a job with Manchester City Council, working throughout the library service, in Central and branches even joining people up, in a tent in Piccadilly gardens. In 2007 Sue started the first UK public libraries Twitter account for MCL, was laser cutting bees on Friday (see pic), running a patent clinic next Tuesday.

Slide 3: We met organising Library Camp 2011 and we’ve organised many more camps since then. Library camp is an unconference. An unconference is like a conference but better. Anarchic and creative, unconferences are free for anybody to attend. A library assistant has just as much right to be heard as a CEO. Library Camps are self organising, attendee led, with no keynote speakers and no agenda we decide it in the first session.

Has anyone been to an unconference? Well - if you haven’t been to one it’s hard it’s to explain the adrenaline rush, the fear, joy and the benefits. Two weeks ago I was presenting at the Next Library Conference in Aarhus (thanks to several people in this room , whose postcards are on the way!) But before I started going to unconferences I’d avoid saying my name out loud in a staff meeting. Richard has never had that problem.

Slide 4: Through running unconferences and working in public libraries we know there is no shortage of library staff with brilliant ideas who are willing to speak up and share ideas.

But when you get back to work implementing meaningful changes, particularly if you are not a manager, can be a big challenge. It’s scary to speak up when you don't have much power. Sadly the public library agenda is often framed by a narrative of cuts, service pressure, nostalgia and criticism. But, still In amongst of all this are hundreds of hard working, passionate individuals who want to make a difference but who often feel that they don’t have the support, the permission or the means to do so. When most efforts to implement change are led from the top down there's little honest buy in from the majority of staff.

Slide 5: We want to find the best way to re-create the independent thinking found at unconferences, the confidence, enthusiasm and imagination that can sometimes be missing in the library workplace.

Slide 6: The OODA loop is a nonlinear decision cycle that combines; Quantum Mechanics- (Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle), Mathematical Logic – (Gödel's incompleteness theorems) and the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The loop is at the very core of current international military strategy; Russian, Chinese, European as well as the US can't not reference Boyd's seminal Discourse on Winning and Losing. From it's beginnings in Boyd's earlier Energy-Maneuverability theory…….to his later work at the pentagon. 

Slide 7: I'll put it a bit more simply!

Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

We want to contribute a new set of tools to help make speaking up feel less risky, to promote bottom-up change and a more distributed leadership.
If you take anything away from this presentation, it’s this.
Observe, Orient, Decide, Act
At it’s simplest the OODA Loop is a mnemonic to aid a decision cycle, a mental tool to help you better prepare and plan.

Slide 8: We haven’t got time to explain in great detail, there’s tonnes to read if you are interested, but briefly

Observation: by means of the senses, the collection of data

Orientation: the analysis and synthesis of data to form knowledge
Decision: based on one's current knowledge, the determination of a course of action
Action: the physical playing-out of decisions

Slide 8: OK CILIP, let’s adopt a literary approach. As we’ve just been to Aarhus, we'd like to demonstrate an OODA loop with reference to the popular Scandi crime author Jo Nesbo. Well known for his bleak, gritty take on the baser elements of human nature, Nesbo's characters nevertheless inhabit a literary environment that responds to Boyd's OODA loop. Take for example

Slide 9: Dr Proktor and his famous Fart Powder.

If you were to consume the Dr’s potion and thought you were going to fart. You’d : Observe - look around your immediate surroundings, is there anyone nearby who could hear or smell. Orient; will the fart offend or amuse, maybe moving near an open window, or, in the time honoured librarian way, leaning to one side, to silence it, then blaming a customer or a colleague. Decide; biologically your brain would message your arse, and finally the Act. Of farting.

Slide 10: We chose that ridiculous example, because now I have to try to explain in more detail the loops origin.

It’s origin is in the first generation of jet fighters Boyd flew for the USAF during the Korean war. The American jet was equal or inferior to the North Korean jet, it’s weapons, acceleration, speed and a host of other attributes. Yet the American’s dominated the air war. Boyd decided that the greater visibility afforded from the cockpit of his plane and it’s unique hydraulic controls, were fundamental to the US’s significant air superiority. If the American pilots could spot the North Korean planes early enough, they could place themselves in an advantageous position. From this advantage, their new hydraulic controls ensured they eventually, inexorably outmaneuvered and ruthlessly eliminated their opponents.

These observations, supported as they were by reams of technical data, led Boyd to the OODA loop.

It begins with his observation: if you can orient yourself into a position where your decisions allow the actions necessary to get inside your opponent's loop, you will, with faster OODA cycles, win. The German word is Zugzwang: in chess a compulsion to move, when any move will worsen your position.

Finally, the second O, orientation is the most important part—as the repository of our genetic heritage, cultural tradition, and previous experiences—is the most important part of the O-O-D-A loop since it shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act.

Slide 11: So now you might be asking what on earth farting and fighting have to do with developing the workforce. We think the OODA Loop can be used as a mental habit, a way to prepare for challenging situations. The OODA Loop is the new minfulness! But It’s important to know that there’s no right or wrong way to do it, or even understand it. But here’s my way!

Let’s say you leave this conference with a burning new idea you want to propose. Don't just blurt it out at every opportunity. Take a bit of time and try using the OODA LOOP


Find all the information you can. Maintain situational awareness. Keep track of trends. Listen to your community. Navigate your organisational landscape. Keeping up to date with global library trends. Network. Attend non library events. Join discussions on social media, follow library blogs. Keep up with technology, politics and educational trends. Be aware of changes and needs in our communities.


Analyse and synthesize the data. Try to anticipate the challenges that might arise. Never underestimate anyone. Look at the world through their perspective. What are their fears and concerns? Think about what they really want, try to pre empt questions.
Do you have funding, a venue, staff capacity, are staff keen and knowledgeable? How do you intend to achieve that? Does it meet a local need. Does it make your boss look good? Think about why your idea fits the libraries’, the council and your communities’ aspirations.

Mentally rehearse different scenarios and use your observations to provide answers that will Smooth and diminish the potential fears of your audience.

DECIDE: After integrating all the good ideas as best you can, you propose your solution to all the stakeholders to get their buy-in and, hopefully, their admiration. Part of the decision process involves mental rehearsals. It's the key for doing things well. It's why athletes practice, actors rehearse and radical librarian change agents spend a lot of time honing their ideas.

ACT: The loop isn't a one off action, it's a constant process. If you are doing all these things, maintaining this situational awareness all the time, as a librarian, you should have no problem gathering the evidence and credibility for your idea.

Try going through the four steps of the OODA loop before you present your ideas.

Slide 12: The OODA Loop can provide people with a framework to present new concepts. If successful this habit could become a positive influence the culture of an organisation. Sound ridiculous? It’s no more ridiculous than expecting employees to sincerely believe every new set of corporate mission statements. Another top down management system we pay lip service to. Being bold should be an essential skill for librarians. Being rejected is going to happen. Look at JK Rowling.

Slide 13:

Helen Bevan, the Chief Transformation Officer at the NHS advocates GOING FOR NO. See no as an opportunity. Value it. Make it a personal performance target. 
No doesn't mean never. If you don't speak up you've given yourself the no.
Small changes in individual habits can lead to big results.

If you don’t think we believe what we say, that OODA can’t be applied to your situation or quite frankly it’s a load of old bollocks, fair enough...but

Slide 14: It’s not difficult to learn enough of the basics to want to know more. And this article from the American Library Association in 2007 is a great place to start. If you want to prove us wrong, go ahead and try. I’ll bet you can’t not think about it. The OODA loop is practical, free and after 3 failed attempts to present at CILIP with simpler presentations, you’ve just listened to us OODA you.

Slide 15: Thanks for listening to us.

We’ll leave you with a montage, some of my favourite loops.

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