I was in panic mode. I had deadlines to meet, my colleagues were not being helpful and both my bosses and clients were on my case. My brain was running like Usain Bolt, but no solutions were forthcoming. I was stuck in this mode until a helpful colleague took me aside and talked me through things. The problems did not go away, but stepping away helped give me space to calm down and think matters through.

After going through this experience, I wonder how severe the panic must be for SME owners. I hear from my colleagues how stressed clients are when they are dealing with a lawsuit instead of mediation. I also recall a friend sharing about her first years managing a start-up. She would suddenly wake up in the middle of the night, sweating and in shock. SME owners face a barrage of issues daily and it is quite easy to be overwhelmed by everything. Our human bodies are also conditioned to enter into “fight or flight” mode before our logic kicks in.

How can SME owners deal with such situations?

OODA! Observe Orientate Decide Act (OODA) is a mental framework developed by strategist and U.S. Air Force Colonel John Boyd to be the foundation of rational thinking in confusing or chaotic situations.

Even though it was originally designed as a strategy for fighter pilots, I believe that OODA can also help SME owners deal with stressful situations. Here are the 4 steps of the framework:

1. Observe – Take a step back and make a mental note of all that is happening.

2. Orientate – Review the end goal that you are working towards and use this as a rule to consider the events before you. From here, the more important matters will start to become more apparent.

3. Decide – You now know the tasks that need to be settled according to importance. Start figuring out the steps required for each of them.

4. Act – Get to it.

OODA is a continual process. After you finish one cycle, you will need to repeat the next round to tackle new problems. Although the framework itself will not solve the problems, it gives you the space to calm down and plan your way through the problems.

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