AOSB Planex Advice

8fairrc

Swinger
Hi everyone,

I have my main board approaching soon and safe to say I am bricking it for the planning exercise element of the board, which for me is the most challenging element by some distance. I have been smashing out practice questions under timed conditions over the last few weeks but after many attempts I still have yet to even come close to completing one in time; at the moment I struggle even to get 1 COA down + factors & deductions, let alone 3!

I still have a reasonable amount of time left to practice this and I am determined to get it right on the day, but I am concerned that even after many practice attempts I don't feel like I have made much progress.

We had a brief lecturette on how to approach it during briefing which was useful, but we went through it rather quickly so the notes I got down are fairly limited. The main problem for me is that when I try and do it the way we were taught, (i.e. draw a detailed sketch map w/ timeline, list every factor possible and add deductions) I tend to get bogged down in the details and then run out of time before I even get started on my COAs. I understand that I need to do it the way we were taught above all else, but it's just very time inefficient in my experience so I am wondering how best to manage that.

So, a couple of questions:

1. When the chips are down, is it better to have a load of factors and deductions but no plan, or vice versa?
2. If you do not manage to make a plan within the time limit, what's the best way to mitigate that in the group discussion + interview afterwards?
3. What is the most time efficient way of getting your factors & deductions down?

Thanks in advance
 

Hohenidoom

Old-Salt
You've got an issue here - the plan ex is a large part of your AOSB. You need to be able to complete one pretty decently, if not perfectly. A few tips;

- sketch map is just that. A quick visualisation with some distances and key objectives, and straightening out the roads. 5 minutes, tops.

- factors will likely be the obvious issues constraining you in the narrative - what is your "so what" takeaway from them?

- Not all of the COAs you put out have to completely workable. If you hit all your essential aims but miss all your desirables; then that alone is a reason to reject it. When I worked through a potential solution and hit an unacceptable risk, that went down as a "filler" COA.

The key here is practice, practice practice. If you go into it at your current state of preparation there's a likelihood you're going to balls it up. If you need some further examples of Plan Exes drop me a line.
 

8fairrc

Swinger
You've got an issue here - the plan ex is a large part of your AOSB. You need to be able to complete one pretty decently, if not perfectly. A few tips;

- sketch map is just that. A quick visualisation with some distances and key objectives, and straightening out the roads. 5 minutes, tops.

- factors will likely be the obvious issues constraining you in the narrative - what is your "so what" takeaway from them?

- Not all of the COAs you put out have to completely workable. If you hit all your essential aims but miss all your desirables; then that alone is a reason to reject it. When I worked through a potential solution and hit an unacceptable risk, that went down as a "filler" COA.

The key here is practice, practice practice. If you go into it at your current state of preparation there's a likelihood you're going to balls it up. If you need some further examples of Plan Exes drop me a line.

Thanks for this. I think the sketch map might be an area in which I'm burning time in the early stages and is costing me towards the end of the hour. I'm not a technical bod and not really used to drawing diagrams, so I think I need to work on simplifying this process instead of copying the map they give you as it just takes too long.

The factors aspect, while simple enough a concept, is the most challenging aspect from a timekeeping perspective. From the practices I've done so far it also seems to be quite inconsistent across different solutions in terms of the detail they go into. I've seen some which are pretty barebones, and others which are much more involved, e.g. calculating every speed/distance/time of every possible route with workings out shown. In the absence of some sort of mark scheme to get a sense for what the DS are looking for here, I think the challenge for me lies in knowing how to strike the right balance and organise things efficiently.

On that point, is there any rough framework you would use to approach organising your factors here? I get that this obviously varies a lot from problem to problem, but would you, for example, start with Personnel, then equipment, transport, timings, distances, speeds in that sort of order? That is generally the way I tend to approach it and I am wondering if there is a more efficient way.

To reiterate, I do understand that you of course need to complete the exercise in full, my first 2 questions were more getting at what to do in a worst case scenario if you do screw up and run out of time, but I suppose it's semantics at the end of the day; a cock up is a cock up.

I also understand that the best remedy is of course practice and am going to continue doing these every day until I get them right; I'm getting through a fair few though so some further examples would be most welcome!
 
I am well over a decade out of date but the planex’s when I did AOSB normally had 3 coas. 1 which was obvious but completely unworkable on some minor detail and 2 which were workable but didn’t fulfil your criteria completely. When presenting the reasons why you had chosen your coa over the other one.

Some people skim and choose the unworkable plan and sit back pleased with themselves until presenting.

Some people panic and struggle to identify the outputs of the COAs and then are unable to come up with a solid plan and reasoning.
I printed a load of examples off and went through about 5 in slow time, so I could get a methodology for my speed/distance/time calcs/consideration then coa decision and then plan write up. I then decreased the time I had to do them until I was under that allowed at AOSB.
 
I found a good way was;

read the info once and fast, then draw sketch map and read again, populating the map with what each place has (hospital/vehicle/fuel etc), then spend time to fill the distances with times etc. Then read again whilst writing aims and populating factors. Then write deductions and COA finish with plan

good luck dude. Planex was nails but I scraped a pass at MB
 

Dwarf

LE
I found a good way was;

read the info once and fast, then draw sketch map and read again, populating the map with what each place has (hospital/vehicle/fuel etc), then spend time to fill the distances with times etc. Then read again whilst writing aims and populating factors. Then write deductions and COA finish with plan

good luck dude. Planex was nails but I scraped a pass at MB
Haven't done one for many, many moons, but as a teacher I train people to do tasks in limited times. That's good advice, as are the other posts here.

Remember sketch maps need to be recognisable not Rembrandts, so fast and adequate over slow and perfect.
Add times/distances then aims and see how each course of action fits that aim.
Give your self targets, so many minutes for first read, so many for sketch map and so on. Practice each element and see how you fit them into your time frame. Too many people fail to administer their time. If an element is taking too long then look at why and adjust accordingly.

You are here asking for advice, that is a positive. Good luck.

Like I said I am way out of date but as a teacher maybe I could help with the practice once I refresh so if you need PM me.
 
Disclaimer: I'm nothing to do with AOSB - any official advice, or anything that comes from anyone involved AOSB takes primacy over what I'm about to say - Bottom Line Up Front - do EXACTLY what AOSB ask you to do, exactly how they've asked you to do it - the aim of the PLANEX is to prove that you have the ability to learn a process, the analytical mind to execute it and the calmness to plan and brief under pressure.

My advice is only how I would do it, based on my experiences; I did RCB (the predecessor to AOSB) aeons ago and since then have done various estimate processes from Pl up to Divisional level.

Your endstate (what you should have at the end of the estimate):

1. An understanding of the situation. Why? So if you're asked about the plan (if it has holes) or if you're thrown curveballs (if the plan is solid) you can answer them. If you don't understand the situation, you have no chance.

2. A decent plan(s). You've got to solve the problem at hand at the end of the day. You need a plan. No plan = fail.

At the end of the day, as Churchill (and many others) have said "It's not the plan, it's the planning". If you follow the process and understand what's going on, you can cuff an answer to anything.

Process. This is how I would do it. It is loosely based on various estimate processes, but clearly AOSB wouldn't expect you to do a proper estimate because 1. They haven't got time to teach you and 2. You haven't got time to do one. So here is a highly abstracted estimate process:

Step 0A. Produce a quick timeline of what you're about to do. This is something you can do before you even hit Main Board. Understand how long it takes to do the steps, and stick rigidly to it. You can't short sell an area of your planning. When you do a step, try and do it in priority order, i.e. build a minimal functional product then finesse it with the time you have. A back of a fag packet plan is better than nothing. Know how long you want to spend on each step.

Step 0B. Understand the situation. This is vital. If you misunderstand something, you are knackered because you'll produce a duff plan. Read the situation once and underline key information. (Key information, not the whole thing). These are your candidate factors. First though, you need to know the situation. This is why you read it once.

Step 1. Analysis. Start your 3 column format. This is Factor - Deduction - Output. Start with the thing you underlined from the situation. Write this in the first column. Then ask "So what?" write these in the second column. Finally ask "What do I have to do about this?" Write this in the third column. When doing your 3CF, you need to cover:

"What is the situation and how does it affect me?"
"What is my endstate? (what do I have to achieve?)"

In real world estimate stuff, this is called your Mission Analysis. Once you've got this far, you know what you need to do.

Step 1B. Before you crack into solving the problem, you need to work out what limitations you have. These are commonly:

Time
Space
Resources
Other limitations

Add this to the 3CF. Particularly the resources part (do you have a vehicle, is someone injured, is someone going to die within X hrs?)

Step 2. Courses of Action. You should now be ready to produce the plan(s). This is a bit of an art, rather than a science. If you had more time, you would probably look at "What effects do I need to have", "Where do I have the effects", "When do these effects happen?" but you probably won't have time for that. I'd probably focus on "How do I achieve the end state (and intermediate goals) with the resources I have within the limitations I have identified?" Bit of an art, as I said, but practice will show you how you best do this. (Incidentally, if you get through this and end up doing this at a high level, you'll be surprised at just how much some senior commanders use basic intuition, even after being hit by a metric buttload of science and logic by their staff).

Try and produce three CoAs. If you are getting tight on time, work out the best one in detail and do two more in very basic outline.

Step 3. Refine the plan. Once you've produced your CoAs, you're going to want for each:

Sketchmap
Timeline
The plan in your head

This is the product that you will be armed with when it comes to briefing time. Any good plan can be briefed off a sketchmap and timeline (synch matrix in proper speak). If you understand the situation, you're laughing.

Final step - Briefing your plan. My tips.

Try and forget everything other than the plan. Where you are is not important. What you are doing is not important. What you had for breakfast is not important. Focus solely on the scenario and nothing else. Clear your mind of anything other than the plan. Put yourself in Narnia (or wherever the scenario is).

Be deliberate, calm and accurate with everything you say. Do not "Um" or "Erm". Pause, think, speak. Look your DS in the eye. Do the "Blue Steel" face. You need to sound like you have a good plan. Do not rush. Think before you speak!!! Again, think before you speak. The DS will try to put you under pressure. Don't let them. Pause, think, speak authoritatively. Most importantly, don't think about how things are going, or you'll crumble. Stay in Narnia. Your DS will try and trip you up. Don't let them.

The above is all my personal experience. Please listen to anyone who actually knows what they are talking about. This is not a rigid "How to", more of a food for thought. As long as you get the basic "Understand, analyse, plan, brief" journey in your head, you're laughing.

Above all - practice, practice, practice. Get used to how long it takes. Rehearse with people (or the mirror). Don't mess around in rehearsal. Get used to pause, think, speak and looking believable. At the end of the day, if you get through this, you've got to persuade some professional soldiers to put their lives on the line for you. A good plan well briefed is how you will do this. If you can do this, AOSB will see your potential.
 
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8fairrc

Swinger
Disclaimer: I'm nothing to do with AOSB - any official advice, or anything that comes from anyone involved AOSB takes primacy over what I'm about to say - Bottom Line Up Front - do EXACTLY what AOSB ask you to do, exactly how they've asked you to do it - the aim of the PLANEX is to prove that you have the ability to learn a process, the analytical mind to execute it and the calmness to plan and brief under pressure.

My advice is only how I would do it, based on my experiences; I did RCB (the predecessor to AOSB) aeons ago and since then have done various estimate processes from Pl up to Divisional level.

Your endstate (what you should have at the end of the estimate):

1. An understanding of the situation. Why? So if you're asked about the plan (if it has holes) or if you're thrown curveballs (if the plan is solid) you can answer them. If you don't understand the situation, you have no chance.

2. A decent plan(s). You've got to solve the problem at hand at the end of the day. You need a plan. No plan = fail.

At the end of the day, as Churchill (and many others) have said "It's not the plan, it's the planning". If you follow the process and understand what's going on, you can cuff an answer to anything.

Process. This is how I would do it. It is loosely based on various estimate processes, but clearly AOSB wouldn't expect you to do a proper estimate because 1. They haven't got time to teach you and 2. You haven't got time to do one. So here is a highly abstracted estimate process:

Step 0A. Produce a quick timeline of what you're about to do. This is something you can do before you even hit Main Board. Understand how long it takes to do the steps, and stick rigidly to it. You can't short sell an area of your planning. When you do a step, try and do it in priority order, i.e. build a minimal functional product then finesse it with the time you have. A back of a fag packet plan is better than nothing. Know how long you want to spend on each step.

Step 0B. Understand the situation. This is vital. If you misunderstand something, you are knackered because you'll produce a duff plan. Read the situation once and underline key information. (Key information, not the whole thing). These are your candidate factors. First though, you need to know the situation. This is why you read it once.

Step 1. Analysis. Start your 3 column format. This is Factor - Deduction - Output. Start with the thing you underlined from the situation. Write this in the first column. Then ask "So what?" write these in the second column. Finally ask "What do I have to do about this?" Write this in the third column. When doing your 3CF, you need to cover:

"What is the situation and how does it affect me?"
"What is my endstate? (what do I have to achieve?)"

In real world estimate stuff, this is called your Mission Analysis. Once you've got this far, you know what you need to do.

Step 1B. Before you crack into solving the problem, you need to work out what limitations you have. These are commonly:

Time
Space
Resources
Other limitations

Add this to the 3CF. Particularly the resources part (do you have a vehicle, is someone injured, is someone going to die within X hrs?)

Step 2. Courses of Action. You should now be ready to produce the plan(s). This is a bit of an art, rather than a science. If you had more time, you would probably look at "What effects do I need to have", "Where do I have the effects", "When do these effects happen?" but you probably won't have time for that. I'd probably focus on "How do I achieve the end state (and intermediate goals) with the resources I have within the limitations I have identified?" Bit of an art, as I said, but practice will show you how you best do this. (Incidentally, if you get through this and end up doing this at a high level, you'll be surprised at just how much some senior commanders use basic intuition, even after being hit by a metric buttload of science and logic by their staff).

Try and produce three CoAs. If you are getting tight on time, work out the best one in detail and do two more in very basic outline.

Step 3. Refine the plan. Once you've produced your CoAs, you're going to want for each:

Sketchmap
Timeline
The plan in your head

This is the product that you will be armed with when it comes to briefing time. Any good plan can be briefed off a sketchmap and timeline (synch matrix in proper speak). If you understand the situation, you're laughing.

Final step - Briefing your plan. My tips.

Try and forget everything other than the plan. Where you are is not important. What you are doing is not important. What you had for breakfast is not important. Focus solely on the scenario and nothing else. Clear your mind of anything other than the plan. Put yourself in Narnia (or wherever the scenario is).

Be deliberate, calm and accurate with everything you say. Do not "Um" or "Erm". Pause, think, speak. Look your DS in the eye. Do the "Blue Steel" face. You need to sound like you have a good plan. Do not rush. Think before you speak!!! Again, think before you speak. The DS will try to put you under pressure. Don't let them. Pause, think, speak authoritatively. Most importantly, don't think about how things are going, or you'll crumble. Stay in Narnia. Your DS will try and trip you up. Don't let them.

The above is all my personal experience. Please listen to anyone who actually knows what they are talking about. This is not a rigid "How to", more of a food for thought. As long as you get the basic "Understand, analyse, plan, brief" journey in your head, you're laughing.

Above all - practice, practice, practice. Get used to how long it takes. Rehearse with people (or the mirror). Don't mess around in rehearsal. Get used to pause, think, speak and looking believable. At the end of the day, if you get through this, you've got to persuade some professional soldiers to put their lives on the line for you. A good plan well briefed is how you will do this. If you can do this, AOSB will see your potential.

Thanks very much for this, lots of great points to pick apart! To be honest, I think I've thrown myself in at the deep end trying to do it under timed conditions too quickly, resulting in lots of time dicking around trying to figure out what to do in what order, which takes you out of the zone completely. Focus is key as you say and I think this is born out practice, but practice under the right conditions. I'm going to go back to the drawing board here and go through some in slow time then slowly ratchet up the time pressure; hopefully that should rectify things.
 

8fairrc

Swinger
Haven't done one for many, many moons, but as a teacher I train people to do tasks in limited times. That's good advice, as are the other posts here.

Remember sketch maps need to be recognisable not Rembrandts, so fast and adequate over slow and perfect.
Add times/distances then aims and see how each course of action fits that aim.
Give your self targets, so many minutes for first read, so many for sketch map and so on. Practice each element and see how you fit them into your time frame. Too many people fail to administer their time. If an element is taking too long then look at why and adjust accordingly.

You are here asking for advice, that is a positive. Good luck.

Like I said I am way out of date but as a teacher maybe I could help with the practice once I refresh so if you need PM me.
Many thanks, sound advice!
 

8fairrc

Swinger
I found a good way was;

read the info once and fast, then draw sketch map and read again, populating the map with what each place has (hospital/vehicle/fuel etc), then spend time to fill the distances with times etc. Then read again whilst writing aims and populating factors. Then write deductions and COA finish with plan

good luck dude. Planex was nails but I scraped a pass at MB
Cheers mate, good luck at RMAS!
 
Thanks very much for this, lots of great points to pick apart! To be honest, I think I've thrown myself in at the deep end trying to do it under timed conditions too quickly, resulting in lots of time dicking around trying to figure out what to do in what order, which takes you out of the zone completely. Focus is key as you say and I think this is born out practice, but practice under the right conditions. I'm going to go back to the drawing board here and go through some in slow time then slowly ratchet up the time pressure; hopefully that should rectify things.
I think you've picked up on two great ways to approach this:

1. Start off with no time pressure and then gradually bring yourself up to AOSB timings.

2. Break the task down into logical steps. That way, you aren't over faced with a daunting task where you don't know where to start, but can crack straight into the first step knowing that the others will follow. Also, you can practice the individual parts separately, if you feel a bit weak in one area.

What you will end up with is 'muscle memory' i.e. when you are under pressure you do roughly the right things on auto-pilot so you at least have somewhere to start.
 
From my experience of the PLANEX at AOSB a year ago I was told that the key focus was to follow the process using the A3 sheet they give you to fill in. The quality of the map/sketch is somewhat irrelevant as long as the assessor can understand what you're trying to convey (bear in mind they've seen every Planex in use and will know what you're trying to show). The marking criteria of them suggests that even if you follow every step but don't complete a COA then you can still pass. I was also told by the staff that you can fabricate plans that obviously do not succeed and therefore quickly create COA's to make up numbers.

Come the briefing stage you will organise in your syndicate and have to collate your ideas into a plan that works. As mentioned above, be confident in your answers and speak clearly and concisely. However, the assessor will force you into a scenario where you cannot answer the question or create significant doubt in your mind. When at my assessment our scenario involved carrying someone with a broken leg on your own. The assessor stressed how difficult moving a casualty would be on your own and would cause your plan to fail due to time. However, leaving the casualty was also the wrong idea. They are testing your confidence in your plan and your ability to know when you are wrong or don't know. Just don't stress and be confident in the plan regardless that you come up with a group and make sure you're all singing on the same hymn sheet.

Im happy to divulge more information and share some example Planex scenarios if needed.

Thats just my experience.
 

8fairrc

Swinger
From my experience of the PLANEX at AOSB a year ago I was told that the key focus was to follow the process using the A3 sheet they give you to fill in. The quality of the map/sketch is somewhat irrelevant as long as the assessor can understand what you're trying to convey (bear in mind they've seen every Planex in use and will know what you're trying to show). The marking criteria of them suggests that even if you follow every step but don't complete a COA then you can still pass. I was also told by the staff that you can fabricate plans that obviously do not succeed and therefore quickly create COA's to make up numbers.

Come the briefing stage you will organise in your syndicate and have to collate your ideas into a plan that works. As mentioned above, be confident in your answers and speak clearly and concisely. However, the assessor will force you into a scenario where you cannot answer the question or create significant doubt in your mind. When at my assessment our scenario involved carrying someone with a broken leg on your own. The assessor stressed how difficult moving a casualty would be on your own and would cause your plan to fail due to time. However, leaving the casualty was also the wrong idea. They are testing your confidence in your plan and your ability to know when you are wrong or don't know. Just don't stress and be confident in the plan regardless that you come up with a group and make sure you're all singing on the same hymn sheet.

Im happy to divulge more information and share some example Planex scenarios if needed.

Thats just my experience.
Thanks mate! That's good to know; I hadn't considered just making up some unworkable COAs to fill out the options in a pinch. I have been told by my CSM that you won't be failed on any single element of main board so that is reassuring also in case things go awry on the day. Fingers crossed it won't be an issue.

The grilling can of course be daunting but I am somewhat used to it from my previous line of work, so I'm hoping that experience will come in handy there, provided my plan actually works!

If you have any Planex scenarios to share or know of any reliable sources of practice scenarios that would be really helpful. I have burned through all of the ones that my CSM has available + a workbook I found on the internet so it's hard to practice with ones you already roughly know the solutions for.
 
Yeah its quite common to fabricate COA's to create a choice as it shows you can evaluate them and then remove those that are unworkable. At main board they will give you a lecture on evening running through the breakdown for marking the planex and show you what are the most important parts to focus on. The grilling is designed to put you under pressure and I'd been told not to argue and just accept when you are wrong (whether that is correct on the marking scheme I don't know but I passed). If you can message me your email i'lll be able to put together what I do have from my prep for AOSB and send it on to you.
 
I am well over a decade out of date but the planex’s when I did AOSB normally had 3 coas. 1 which was obvious but completely unworkable on some minor detail and 2 which were workable but didn’t fulfil your criteria completely. When presenting the reasons why you had chosen your coa over the other one.

Some people skim and choose the unworkable plan and sit back pleased with themselves until presenting.

Some people panic and struggle to identify the outputs of the COAs and then are unable to come up with a solid plan and reasoning.
I printed a load of examples off and went through about 5 in slow time, so I could get a methodology for my speed/distance/time calcs/consideration then coa decision and then plan write up. I then decreased the time I had to do them until I was under that allowed at AOSB.
There’s always a COA that satisfies all the requirements, and often more than one, for all the different Planexes currently used.
 
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From my experience of the PLANEX at AOSB a year ago I was told that the key focus was to follow the process using the A3 sheet they give you to fill in. The quality of the map/sketch is somewhat irrelevant as long as the assessor can understand what you're trying to convey (bear in mind they've seen every Planex in use and will know what you're trying to show). The marking criteria of them suggests that even if you follow every step but don't complete a COA then you can still pass. I was also told by the staff that you can fabricate plans that obviously do not succeed and therefore quickly create COA's to make up numbers.

Come the briefing stage you will organise in your syndicate and have to collate your ideas into a plan that works. As mentioned above, be confident in your answers and speak clearly and concisely. However, the assessor will force you into a scenario where you cannot answer the question or create significant doubt in your mind. When at my assessment our scenario involved carrying someone with a broken leg on your own. The assessor stressed how difficult moving a casualty would be on your own and would cause your plan to fail due to time. However, leaving the casualty was also the wrong idea. They are testing your confidence in your plan and your ability to know when you are wrong or don't know. Just don't stress and be confident in the plan regardless that you come up with a group and make sure you're all singing on the same hymn sheet.

Im happy to divulge more information and share some example Planex scenarios if needed.

Thats just my experience.
I’ve never known anyone not complete a COA and still pass. Your second paragraph is also incorrect.
 
There’s always a COA that satisfies all the requirements, and often more than one, for all the different Planexes currently used.
Do you speak from current knowledge? As I say, I’m out of date but I do not remember any COAs fulfilling all criteria. It seems to rather defeat the point.
 
I would guard against creating two 'strawman' CoAs and one obvious CoA - the DS will see through that.

Better, just use common sense and intuition to quickly assess three candidate CoAs that look promising. It doesn't need to be rocket science, just sensible, i.e. top, middle, bottom or car, donkey, helicopter etc.
 
be all over speed/distance/time....comes naturally to some but not others...
 

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