The 7 Questions

What

The Combat Estimate or The 7 Questions is a robust analytical and planning process used by the British and other arm forces to plan while under fire or facing the enemy. They provide a simple and repeatable framework to plan both strategic and tactical efforts.

The Combat Estimate can be used by leaders with their teams, or on their own, while seeking to solve a problem. The questions can be tailored to match any organization or industry, and they can be simplified to provide even more benefits. At the end of the exercise, after answering all the questions, a clear way forward will most likely appear. This solution can be analyzed and looped on again, to find a simpler, more direct solution.

The questions are:

  1. What is the situation and how does it affect me?
  2. What have I been told to do and why?
  3. What effects do I need to achieve and what direction must I give to develop my plan?
  4. Where can I best accomplish each action or effect?
  5. What resources do I need to accomplish each action or effect?
  6. When and where do the actions take place in relation to each other?
  7. What control measures do I need to impose?

I use this method daily to plan and document big efforts in a way that provides information and context to the people that need to execute on those efforts.

Simplified

Over time I have simplified the questions to a collection of steps that can be repeated across any team or organization. The simplified version is as follow:

1. Situation

What is the background or context to the task or action at hand?

1. Situation

What is the background or context to the task or action at hand?

2. Task

What have I been asked to do, or what do I need to do?

3. Time

When must this happen by?

4. Places / Assets

Where must this happen? What will be affected?

5. Resources

What resources do I need?

6. Coordination / Help

With whom may I have to coordinate? Who can provide the resources needed?

7. Change / Risks

What might change and put the task at risk? What controls can I put in place to prevent this? What is the plan B?

Keep It Simple, Stupid

The simplified framework has been working great, but thinking about it a bit more, and syncing with a security expert that always steers me in the right direction, we can simplify this further.

In this case we focus only on Question 1 and Question 7, leaving the others as helpers to provide more information if needed.

Ask:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What are the risks?

Closing

Think of the seven questions as a way to understand the situation, interpret or assess the end state, and create an outline plan. Keep it simple, answer the questions, and take it from there. Even if the first iteration is not good, the exercise will help you focus your thoughts in the right direction.

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