7-Step Military Problem Solving Process – A to Z Guide

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

7 step military problem solving process

The 7 steps to problem solving is a decision-making strategy initially developed for the military. This army problem solving process is an effective way of resolving problems, especially in fast-paced environments or time-bound circumstances.

Later, this army problem solving model was adopted by those working in the business and management industry, who also found the strategy practical and valuable.

This article will teach you how to apply the 7-step military problem solving process to your daily life.

A Walk-through of the 7-Step Military Problem Solving Process

Decision-making in the military is vital because every small decision is crucial to the success of the mission, and in the bigger picture, national security.

Having established this significance, every recruit is taught this seven step decision making process because this knowledge is considered fundamental to becoming a ready member of the military.

Step 1: Identify the Problem


The first step of this method involves pinpointing what needs to be resolved in the first place.

This is very important as the successful execution of this step will determine the quality of the solutions that will arise later in the process.

The worst thing that could happen is that you have gone through the whole process just to come up with a solution that doesn’t resolve the problem in the first place.

  • To avoid this, go back to the basics, by asking the 5 W questions: who, what, when, where, and why.

Once the problem statement is clear and specific, you can now proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Investigate, Gather Facts and Make Assumptions


This step involves further data gathering. You will be assessing the situation further, weighing in external and internal factors surrounding the situation.

By identifying facts and assumptions, you are already beginning to hypothesize possible causes of the problem. Different angles as to what could’ve brought the problem about will help have an all-encompassing assessment of the issue at hand.

Step 3: Come up with Alternative Courses of Action


This step requires the construction of numerous solutions to the problem you investigated in the 2 previous steps.

Remember how you devised hypotheses about what caused the problem in step 2? Use these as the jump-off point of your proposed courses of action.

This step will require a lot of analysis and logical thinking to come up with all the best alternatives.

Step 4: Lay Down all your Alternatives and Perform an Analysis


Continuing from the alternative courses of action that you came up with in step 3, it’s now time to weigh them in order to start identifying which solution is the best for the situation.

There are army problem solving evaluation criteria that aid in this analysis process. They are as follows:

  1. Acceptability – Analyze the basic requirements to see what alternatives are acceptable to the situation.
  2. Feasibility – Consider aspects such as time element and available resources.
  3. Suitability – Consider the consequences that may arise as a result of your actions; consider the culture and circumstances of the people directly and indirectly involved.
  4. Completeness – Consider how the alternative is complete and ready for implementation and execution.
  5. Distinguishability – Assess if the options have distinct features that differ from other alternatives.

Step 5: Select the Best Alternative by Comparing and Contrasting

After having analyzed your options and looking into their strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to compare them in order to eliminate the non-ideal alternatives. This is linked to the previous step and may be considered partners in the general goal of selecting the best course of action.

In this step, ask yourself questions such as: which course of action promises the best turnout?

Step 6: Finalize your Decision and Execute


The previous steps in problem solving process all led to this crucial portion – the final decision and the execution. Of course, all the data gathering and analysis will be wasted if the course of action is poorly executed.

Crafting the action plan is part of this step. An ideal action plan includes numerous backup plans for when the situation isn’t ideal for the execution of the original plan.

An effective line of communication is also important when the execution requires a team of people, so make sure to improve the coordination value within your team.

Step 7: Perform a Results Assessment


This last step is important in improving future decision-making situations. During this step, you must discuss what went wrong, what went right, and points of improvement.

Expectedly bad decisions could’ve been made, or good decisions turned out to have unexpected and unintended consequences. To make the value of these events, perform a results assessment to generate a learning experience for you and your team.

Benefits of the 7-Step Military Problem-solving Process

Applying the aforementioned strategy to your daily life, whether you’re in the military or not, has proved to be an organized way of dealing with a problem. Because the 7-step process provides an organized framework for problem-solving, it helps reduce overwhelming feelings for the decision-maker.

Also, since the process is broken down into clear steps, the risk of committing mistakes, overlooking important factors, and missing to identify good alternatives is reduced.

Is There Any Other Military Problem-solving Process?

Aside from the 7-step problem-solving technique, the military also has the military decision-making process, MDMP, and course of action, or COA method. The 7-step method, however, is the most well-known and widely practiced one.

The MDMP is almost similar in essence with the 7-step method. In fact, it also involves the following:

  • (1) receiving
  • (2) analyzing the mission
  • (3) drafting a course of action
  • (4) analyzing
  • (5) comparing the course of action
  • (6) having the chosen course of action reviewed
  • (7) dividing the tasks and ordering the team members as to their roles/tasks.

The COA covers similar steps as steps 2, 3, 4, and 5, of the MDMP. The main difference between MDMP and COA with the 7-step method is the great emphasis on the hierarchical line of command and the requirement of approvals before execution for MDMP and COA; the 7 steps technique is not very explicit in this aspect.


This knowledge on the 7 step military problem solving process, hopefully is useful to you for matters at work, and even for the decisions you make on a daily. Make sure that, even with the use of decision-making techniques like this, mistakes and errors can still arise along the way.

There are things beyond anticipation and control, after all. However, never waste this opportunity to learn and improve.

Feel free to return to this article for help, especially when you find yourself in a situation that requires quick decision-making.

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