Fighter Pilot Tactics and the “Secret Sauce” for Success: A Change Management Blog

May 6, 2021


Change Management is often thought of as dealing primarily with communication and training throughout a project or program endeavor. While these are the two most visible aspects of Change Management, there are many more activities that need to occur to ensure a successful project.

At Shelby, we take a stakeholder-centric approach to ensure that the objectives, benefits, and value proposition of the eProcurement engagement are communicated to those that are most affected by new policies, processes, and tools. This is done through targeted messaging. Through our robust training methods and materials, we ensure platform adoption and value creation are realized.

We believe that Change Management is the “secret sauce” to a successful implementation. In this blog I’ll add an “ingredient” to the sauce – layering in the OODA loop.

The Basics

Once the Change Management team has been identified and each party’s role and expected involvement are clear (our RACI charts solidify this), a primary step is to identify the various stakeholder groups (or departments). We then determine how they will be impacted by various aspects of the project, what level of support the stakeholder groups will require, and what level of acceptance of change they exhibit. From there, a general approach can be tailored for each group to guide them to accept the change they will experience.

As the project unfolds and new user roles and processes have been identified, an impact analysis is performed to address both of these perspectives, as well as at the leadership level. The current and future states are outlined, gaps are identified, and change management plans are formulated to address all three perspectives.

When addressing these perspectives, it is important to consider the WIIFM concept (or “What’s In It For Me”). To ensure change management success, your users must understand how the changes will help them. WIIFM is a key driver in getting buy-in from your users. You can learn more about this concept in our Change Management eBook series*.

Gaps between the current state and the future state are customarily addressed in managing change through the two most apparent activities mentioned earlier – communication and training. But, there is a third activity that can enhance the flavor of the “secret sauce,” as we’ll see shortly.


Based on the prior analyses that have been performed, the Change Management team builds a communication strategy to address the plans throughout the project timeline and major milestones – Conference Room Pilot, Train the Trainer, User Testing, End User Training, and Go Live. Appropriate messages and timeframes are identified. The work is planned. And the plan is worked.


While the communication plan mentioned above is being assembled, plans for training are also being formulated. It’s at this point that awareness of the new system, roles, processes, policies, standard procedures, etc. discussed and discovered earlier in the project should be worked into the training topics and materials. This allows for another opportunity to encourage acceptance of the many changes among the stakeholders.

The OODA Loop

What is OODA and how can it be effective when managing change? The OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) process or “loop” was formulated in the 1960s and 70s by Colonel John Boyd, the greatest U.S. fighter pilot ever, whose tactics allowed him to beat all opponents in less than 40 seconds. (He is also known as the father of the F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft.)

His theory and tactics are codified in the OODA loop, which he continually improved until his death in the 1990s. It is still used today in the military and has been applied to business models to maximize efficiency.

The OODA Loop

So how can the OODA loop be applied to the change management process? Primarily via two methods: Questionnaires and Small Group Discussions. These methods allow you to OBSERVE sessions that have occurred (by using questions) or are occurring (through dialog) and are utilized when most appropriate. Let’s discuss the use of questionnaires.

Through questionnaires, you gather feedback by asking specific questions about an activity that was just experienced by your stakeholders. Let’s use CRP (Conference Room Pilot) sessions for our discussion since they occur near the beginning of the implementation. When a session or series of sessions has ended, a questionnaire is sent to each attendee – not the invitees, as we need to gather actual information about the CRP session(s).

The questionnaire will query the attendees on a number of measures: who they are, their department, their role within the company, etc. This is useful data, as we know our stakeholder groups and can now analyze the rest of the answers by group. Additional questions are presented to gather information about the CRP leaders, the technology employed, the materials covered, the time allotted to each part of the CRP session, etc. A few open-ended questions are also posed. These will allow each attendee to provide validation of expectations being met or provide constructive feedback on how something can be improved.

We now have our data. Through analysis of this data, we will ORIENT our performance during CRP (both good and bad performance) based on where we fell short of our objectives and expectations. Some of the feedback will validate prior experiences in conducting CRP sessions. Other feedback may point out something that is unique to the client’s culture, project functionality, implementation phase or country/region. It may also point to usage of a newly introduced technology not previously considered. We come to understand what has just happened and what is unfolding.

From the analysis, we can now formulate several responses to improve based on what was experienced, observed and cataloged via the questionnaire. After pros, cons, desired outcomes, budgets, etc. are discussed, the team can DECIDE on a new course of action that will improve the next phase or set of sessions.

The last step is to ACT on your decision and test your hypotheses. When that new opportunity comes along (let’s say User Acceptance Testing is next in the implementation) your decisions can often be immediately observed to see whether they’ve had the desired effect.

In fact, in a multi-day scenario, you’ll be able to monitor (observe) the effectiveness of your new course of action after day 1 (without a formal questionnaire), debrief what happened (orient), discuss minor changes to make the next day (decide), and put them in place (act). An informal “mini-OODA Loop” has been performed!

The Conclusion

Proper Change Management is crucial to the success of any project. While training and communication are the pillars of any Change Management effort, adding in the “ingredient” of the OODA loop will enhance the overall success of your implementation/optimization efforts.

To learn more about how The Shelby Group can help your team incorporate the OODA loop into your Change Management efforts, contact us at

*Shelby Change Management eBook Series: eBook 1 – Change Management Strategy | eBook 2 – Change Management Launch | eBook 3 – Change Management Expansion

By: Andrew J. Milan, Manager