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The DODAR advantage: make faster, smarter decisions

In our rapidly changing world, the ability to make faster, smarter decisions is a competitive advantage. DODAR can help you. It’s a decision-making tool that originated in the aviation industry, where faster, smarter decisions save lives.

DODAR is the process used in the Aviation industry by Pilots and Crew to assist in decision making during an abnormal situation or emergency.

DODAR can also be adapted for use within business, let’s jump in!

Introduction to DODAR

DODAR is an acronym which identifies the sequential steps required to solve a problem or make a decision.

  • Diagnose
  • Options
  • Decide
  • Act
  • Review


This is the first step to solving a problem or make a decision. It’s necessary to find out what is wrong and if possible, what caused it. In this stage it’s all about determining and confirming the problem. Three key points to remember:

  1. Make sure you’re initial understanding of the problem is the same as other stakeholders
  2. Focus on identifying the cause of the problem. As you do so, consider using specific root cause analysis tools such as the 5 why’s, fishbone analysis, or Pareto’s principle.
  3. The result should be a restated view of the problem that is mutually agreed and super simple to explain.

Note: TDODAR is a variation on the acronym, where T stands for Time available to make a decision. How much time you have available to make a decision can be a critical consideration in an aviation emergency and is also a useful consideration in a business context.


Once you’ve diagnosed the problem, you can generate options. What are the choices available to you given the problem and the circumstances? This requires a shift from the analytical thinking you’ve been doing earlier, to more creative thinking techniques to generate as many options as possible.

As you’re generating options, check for your assumptions and biases. Sometimes the most innovative solutions to problems require that you let go of what you think you know to be true.


Once you have identified all the options available to you, it’s time to choose the best option. Make sure you consult with all the relevant stakeholders and consider using a decision matrix to help you.


Carry out the appropriate actions and assign tasks if there are tasks for other people too. When implementing decisions, especially for large or complex decisions, consider taking a project management approach.


This can take place through-out the implementation of decisions, not just once all the actions are complete, to ensure that everything is proceeding according to plan and the expected outcomes are likely.

If this is not the case, start again with Diagnose.

You can even consider a preview (otherwise known as a premortem) to anticipate problems before they arise.

The OODA Loop – related to DODAR

The OODA Loop is another decision-making tool defined by John Boyd, a US fighter pilot and military strategist. His work has also influenced business thinking.

Here’s the OODA Loop in summary:

Observe: first, we have to observe, gather data.

Orientate: this is how we filter and interpret what we have observed, based on our previous experience, assumptions (and biases).

Decide: simple, make a decision.

Act: the decision has to lead to the appropriate action!

This loop may take a moment, for example as part of the dynamics of a meeting. Or may be more complex and lengthier, for example to support the development of business strategy.

DODAR and the OODA Loop: two points for reflection

First, being able to move more quickly through DODAR or the OODA Loop gives you a competitive advantage. This is true for both yourself and your business. Be aware of the steps, be agile, and get ahead.

Second, as an individual (and as a organization) you will be stronger at some steps of the process than others.

For example, I know that I’m good at diagnosing, but I have to work really hard to recognize my biases and filters when generating options (as do most of us!). Also, I am good at making decisions, but sometimes I can be a little slow to act.

Use DODAR and the OODA Loop to reflect on your strengths and potential development areas. This is easiest if you just identify the step that is your greatest strength and the step that is your biggest development need, then fit the other steps in between.

Look at the list, start with your biggest development need, and get to work on improving your performance!

Colin Bates

Colin Bates

I'm at my best when helping people to learn, grow and succeed. This might be facilitating a training program, coaching a colleague, or sharing advice with my kids. I'm also an introvert by nature, and love to read, reflect and write. Hence this blog!