Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Becoming a Top Gun Homeless Response System

In the opening scene of Top Gun, we are introduced to the hero of the movie, known by the call sign Maverick, as he accomplishes an incredible feat, trolling an enemy pilot:

It is so quick, that it is difficult to see how Maverick did this. So, how did he?

“When two pilots faced off in a dogfight, the pilot who was able to observe the variables, orient his aircraft to the best possible position relative to his opponent, decide on the best course of action to engage his opponent, and act rapidly on that decision would win the fight.” (Mark Bonchek and Chris Fussell, Decision Making, Top Gun Style; Emphases mine – DSG.)

What the fictional Maverick uses is a conceptual decision making framework originated by the real larger than life character, U.S. Air Force Colonel John Boyd. This framework is known as the OODA Loop, because, as illustrated by Maverick, it involves four steps, Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. Boyd believed that this framework could be useful beyond the military, and it is seen as particularly helpful in competition in the business world. I believe, that it is applicable to our fight to end homelessness, too.

You can probably reflect on different situations, where you have engaged in decision making, and have used some or all the elements Maverick used. The extent to which you have been successful may have depended on your adherence to the OODA Loop framework.

You could, for instance, observe carefully, orient yourself to your situation very well, and even decide on the right course of action, but then due to various obstacles, not act. Conversely, my father’s admonition from when I was a child, still echoes in my head. To my pleading, “But I thought,” he would respond, “No, you didn’t think!” In those cases, I decided and then acted, without observing and orienting.

So, how does this apply to ending homelessness? If you think about our new MDHA Homeless Response System Community Dashboard, it gives us the perfect tool to make decisions in a way that would make Colonel Boyd proud. It allows us to observe all of the performance metrics or variables related to our number one job, as a homeless response system, housing the homeless. We can then orient ourselves into the best possible position, by drilling down into the data, and addressing three simple questions:
  • How are we doing in housing the homeless?
  • What is helping us house the homeless?
  • What is impeding us from housing the homeless?

Once we have carefully observed and oriented ourselves, we can decide what corrective action we need to take to do a better job. Then, we follow through, and take that corrective action.

That the most important component in the real world is action, is a given. However, it is the Dashboard that allows our action to be much more well informed than ever before, and that is the true game-changer. The Dashboard allows our action to be guided by genuine data-driven evidence-informed decisions, born of careful observation and orientation.  With that, we can win this dogfight and defeat our foe, homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties.

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