The 7 Questions

Discussion in 'Staff College and Staff Officers' started by antphilip, Jun 30, 2004.

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  1. Having spent the weekend going over this and coming out somewhat confused... well three days later it's had a chance to make sense in my mind,

    Anyway my hope was that some of you might be able to give me some helpful hints/tips on using the 7 questions quickly and efficiently. Any advice would be very much appreciated.
  2. msr

    msr LE

    Start at no.1 and work your way sequentially through the questions until you reach no.7

  3. Well that brought a smile to my face. :)
  4. Ahhh....this is more like it! :D

    The 7 Questions were 'born' out of a great deal of Observations From Training (OFT).

    Although msr is fundamentally (and logically) correct, the 7 Questions are in fact inter-related. Although planners should start with Question 1 (IPB), there is an enduring need to constantly refer back to the Enemy (the subject of Question 1 ) in order that the entire planning process (and resultant products) remain focussed on the Enemy. The good cry here is 'Fight the Enemy - not the Plan!' Question 1 also initiates the CCIR process - which will remain 'live' as long as the relevant Fmn/HQ remains deployed on operations - clearly, current ops need to remain appraised of CCIRs raised during a concurrent planning process for future operations/ConPlans). The G2 cell will have assessed various Enemy COAs, concentrating on Worst Case and Most Likely COAs. These will be taken forward and used to produce the Event Overlay - essentially assigning NAIs and DPs (the birth of the DSO - more of that later).

    Question 2 (Mission Analysis) provides the framework to allow planners to 'analyse the mission'. Although this is a truism, it allows planners to extract the critical activities (Specified and Implied Tasks) from a set mission (given by Higher Commander) in order to guarantee success, and achieve the mission. [Note: a great deal of work is being conducted at present which will concentrate solely on identification of Critical Success Factors - this project will replace the 7 Questions in the fullness of time.] Question 3 also identifies CCIRs and Constraints.

    Question 3 (Commander's Intent and Guidance to Staff) sees the creation of the Effect Schematic and guidance from the Commander as to whether he wishes to develop a range of Courses of Action (COA) or the adoption and planning of a single COA. The Commander will also issue his Intent, Schem of Manoeuvre, and Main Effort (all of which will be depicted graphically in the Effect Overlay). The CCIR process continues to be informed at this stage. The Effect Schematic will be fused with the Event Overlay (Q1) to produce the Draft DSO for use in Question 4.

    Question 4 (Where can I best achieve each action/effect) starts with the fusion of the Event Overlay/Effect Schematic. and then relating this product to the map. This enables planners to accurately position NAIs/DPs and related TAIs to achieve the desired effect, starting with the Main Effort (ME) effect. Basically, a mini-plan is made for each effect.

    Question 5 (What resources do I need to achieve each action/effect?) effectively pulls the staff together in terms of contributing their assets to achieve the effect. Although this will have been initiated in Q4, Q5 allows a more refined approach to be taken, as a number of COAs will be discarded during Q4. Q5 concerns assessment of Relative Strengths (from Q1) in relation to effect, which will have an impact on what we intend to 'hit the enemy with' (we know 'where' from Q4). The obstacle plan can be refined here, as can STAP/Anti-Armour Plans etc. The DSOM (not a DSM!!!) can also be refined during Q5, as a clearer understanding of the COA develops. The COA can also be wargamed at this point.

    Question 6 (When and where do the actions take place in relation to each other?) As the plan is developed, the synchronisation of All Arms within each TAI needs to be recorded. Overall synchronisation can be recorded on a synch matrix (developed during wargaming). The STAP is also completed in Q6, once NAIs/DPs/TAIs have been identified, an STA asset will be needed to cover them.

    Question 7 (What control measures do I need to impose?) Boundaries, additional RFLs. COMSEC etc can all be added here.


    The 7 Questions are very simple, once you understand the underlying principle (like most things, I daresay!)

    Hope this was of some use! :D
    • Informative Informative x 1
  5. msr

    msr LE

    Does mean it is an iterative process?

  6. F*ck me, far to may big words and initials for the likes of me......
    ah that I recognise had to take tablets for that and put cream on me balls.....
  7. msr you ********! :D

    (Actually, the requirement to remain focussed is best illustrated by continued adherence to glidepath engineering; coupled to near realtime reach-back to first principles. In essence, we (the deliverer of this iterative process and associated by-products) must consciously refuse to engage with (and be engaged by) the quicksand 'pull and suck' dynamic; in order that we do not become mired in retroactive and anarchaic cerebral structures; we must above all 'Fight Light!')
  8. Why cant it just be put onto a big diagram instead?
  9. Bloody hell mate - cracking answer - and you gave me a hard time for posting 'advice' on the Duncan Essay! Back to the point, I agree; in my experience to understand (and therefore get the most out of) 7Qs you need to understand the good old fashioned Estimate as it is an abbreviation of that process. And where time allows the Estimate is a far better tool for examining a problem. Use 7Qs only when you are short (ie minutes not hours) of time - if you have an hour or 2 an Estimate will usually give better results. This is particularly the case when considering the 'Enemy and Ground' bit...

    There's nothing easy about any of it; I came out of ACSC none the wiser and only got a grip with The Big E and 7Qs in a subsequent posting. But then again I always was a dullard...
  10. Having used the 7qs to great success on the only Brigade level tesex in BATUS I think they are the puppies privates. I disagree that they sould only be used if you are short of time. The Estimate is great for campaign planning and PSO type Ops when time is on your side and you need to cosider every item.

    The crucial thing about the 7Qs is that they are quick - better 90% solution on time than 100% too late. Remember you are trying to get inside the enemy's decision making cycle and therefore hit them before they can react and always keep a step ahead.

    Do good mission analysis, get the staff working on the 7Qs and COAs, have an excellent ISTAR Offr - must be a young Major and rattle through things ASAP. The real key is good and honest wargaming between the BGWO and the ISTAR Offr - that tests the COA and Plan and help the contingency planning - there will always be surprises but you have help minimise them. Have a very comprehensive DSO, issue it down to Section level and fight the battle off that. I have seen a Battlegroup Mission Analysis, 7Qs and a written OpO and DSO produced in 40 mins in the field - that is fast.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Beg to differ; (just been through this discussion with the boss; I have to teach 7Qs to OCdts).

    If I called it an "Effects-led tool" (combat estimate) rather than "Factors-led tool" (estimate) it would be another way of looking at it (like the old adage of "work out your route from the FRV backwards")

    With the combat estimate, the focus is on the end effects; you work backwards from the end state, as quickly as possible. If you get time, you try out another route.

    With the full estimate, the focus is on addressing all relevant factors, and milking them dry. You work forward towards a choice of plans that you hope will "emerge" from a list of tasks and constraints that need to be addressed.

    My limited experience suggests that we use 7Qs when we want to maintain focus. If you have an hour or two, and a reasonable problem, 7Qs is probably the better bet. Estimates are at their best when you've got a day or so to give the problem a good intellectual shoeing.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Good stuff here...sorry for the astonishing hypocrisy boss! :)

    Both 'types' of Estimate (7 Qs and the Formal Estimate) have their place in the grand scheme of things. Time seems to be the single biggest determining factor in which to choose.

    To paraphrase a point made above: 90% early is better than 100% too late.

  13. Is the formal estimate still taught or is this intergrated to some level into the 7 questions... or just plain forgotten?
  14. The Formal Estimate is still being taught at Staff College. The reason for this is quite sound - it is an absolutely essential skill.

    The 7 Questions are a refined version of the Formal Estimate. It allows (indeed, actively encourages) an intuitive leap of deductive logic to be made without derailing the estimate itself; or leading to discontinuity in the staff planning cycle.

    Again, the issue here is time. 4 Armd Brigade on Op GRANBY delivered a handwritten Formal Estimate to the SofS before the break-in, to give the SofS a bit of top cover. If a Formation has 3 months sitting around in the desert (or whatever) before the op launches, then the COS will lead a Formal Estimate process. If the Formation has about 3 days before going in, the 7 Qs will be dusted off and used accordingly.

    7 Qs is a good lead in to the Formal Estimate. Although many officers will say that they understand the Estimate process, the real issue lies in understanding how to apply that process in an effective manner. I have lost count of the number of officers outside specialised centres who betray an alomost criminal lack of understanding about this application of process. Thankfully, very few of them make it to infect the Army by being Staff Officers at Brigade and Division.

    I know that work is just starting on drawing together corporate knowledge and understanding on the Estimate process and uniting it doctrinally. This will be a huge step forward for the Army. Presently we have the ludicrous situation of JOTAC and BPC (both delivered by the same organisation) teaching the Estimate process differently (and to wildly different standards). RMAS is much the same - but this is what happens when Instructors from a huge variety of backgrounds are pulled together because of their perceived recruiting attraction (Corps and non Combat capbadges are very bad at this) and told to read from a script. Very few of the Platoon Commanders have any viable staff experience at all, let alone in conducting the estimate process!

    I suspect my last comment will drag this thread off topic - PM me with any vehement objections to this and I am happy to be proven wrong! :D
    • Like Like x 1
  15. CGS

    CGS War Hero Moderator

    As a graduate of the ACSC (tomorrow!), I must chip in...

    The 7 questions is the formal campaign process estimate used at the Academy. It is only a tool and combines many other little tricks, like CofG analysis and allows for better Joint working and planning, as well as focussing staff effort in parallel with the Commanders' Mission Analysis.

    The 'Formal Estimate' process is taught to the Land students who become largely adept at the tactical level, where it is used.

    The difference between the two is a narrowing gap, as the Land students are taught to 'front load' the estimate process with as much contributory factor analysis as possible.
    • Like Like x 1