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All About the 7-Step Military Problem Solving Process

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

7 step military problem solving process

In addition to power and strength, the military relies on quick and decisive thinking. Members in service must be able to think on their feet and craft solutions in the blink of an eye. Obviously, this is not easy to do. But it is not too far-fetched when you realize that countless lives depend on a single personnel’s decision and course of action.

As such, every recruit coming into the military is taught and trained about the 7-step military problem solving process. This systematic approach is believed to be the best way for military members to address any problems that they encounter.

In short, the 7 steps to solve problems are:

  • Pinpoint the Problem
  • Identify the Facts and Assumptions
  • Craft Alternatives
  • Analyze the Generated Alternatives
  • Weigh Between the Generated Alternatives
  • Make and Carry Out Your Final Decision
  • Evaluate the Results From Your Decision

To make it easier for you to comprehend and follow along, we have elaborated on each of the above steps in this article. So, continue reading by scrolling down!

Table of Contents

Step 1: Pinpoint the Problem

Step 2: identify the facts and assumptions, step 3: craft alternatives, step 4: analyze the generated alternatives, step 5: weigh between the generated alternatives, step 6: make and carry out your final decision, step 7: evaluate the results from your decision, army problem solving & decision making process, seven step military problem solving process.


The first step is to ID the problem, which means recognizing and identifying what needs fixing. Needless to say, you cannot attempt to seek a solution without first knowing what has to be addressed. By pinpointing your problem, you will have a clear goal or end destination in mind. Only then can you come up with the right steps to take.

To effectively define the problem, ask yourself the 5Ws—who, what, where, and when. In detail:

  • Who is affected? Who is involved?
  • What is affected? What is in the overall picture?
  • When is/did this happen?
  • Where is/did this happen?

Always be crystal clear about the problem and try to view it in the most objective way as much as possible. Imagine you are the third person looking at It rather than from it. It also helps to organize your answers into a coherent and concise problem statement.

The next step is to ID the facts and assumptions. This entails that you get whatever additional information you can in the time that you have. Try to garner more facts than assumptions by reviewing all the possible factors, internal and external, and use them together with what you have thought out in the step above to determine the cause of the problem. You should also be aware of the nature and scope of the problem from this step.

From here, you take a sub-step: think about what you want the final result to be. This does not have to be complicated but it has to be very clear. For instance, one of your troop members may be lost and uncontactable. Your ultimate goal is to find him/her and return to your base together. Remember, having a wishy-washy end state will only make your problem solving process more difficult.

These first two steps constitute situation assessment, which serves as the basis for you to work towards the remaining steps of the military problem solving process.

Onto the third step, strive to develop as many potential solutions as possible. Here, you will have to exercise your imagining and visualizing skills. Brainstorm and refine any ideas simultaneously. Engage both critical and critical thinking in this step. If possible, take note of what you have come up with. Do not be hesitant and brush off any ideas.

Then, analyze your options. Consider all of your possible courses of action with all the available information that you have compiled in the previous steps. Take into account your experiences, intuitions, and emotions. This does not have to be a purely rational or mathematical procedure. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you are 100% guided by your instincts and emotions. You must have a good balance between the two.

This step naturally lends itself to the next: compare between your generated alternatives. Weigh between their respective pros and cons. In particular, look at their cost and benefit of success. Are there any limiting factors or potential for unintended consequences? Evaluate carefully and ask yourself a lot of questions. You can also consider using a table, T-chart, or matrix to compare visually.

Try to settle for the “best” solution or course of action that is both logical and feels “right”. Apart from picking the best, select two or three more workable solutions as backups. Keep them handy in case you need to refer back to them. During this process, you may merge ideas and mix-match bits and pieces—that’s perfectly fine!

Once you have made your decision, craft your action plans. Know the details—what exactly do you have to do to solve the problem? If it is a long-term problem that you have to address, set milestones and timelines with clear methods of measuring progress and success. On the other hand, if it is a short, instantaneous problem, communicate your plans clearly to anyone else involved. Be aware of the specifics and be brutally honest. Execute your course of action with care. But do not be rigid. If something happens out of the plan, be willing to adjust and adapt.

After your solution implementation, wrap up by assessing the results. Was it what you envisioned? Were there deviations? What did you take away? Answer all of the questions so you can be even more equipped for future endeavors. Think of it as a reflection stage. The 7 steps to problem solving in the military are a continuous process—you will be confronted with challenges over and over, so do not skip this strengthening step. It will further your skills and expertise to handle problems going forward.


Another set of seven steps that you may come across during your service is the army problem solving steps. Needless to say, this is applied to the army problem solving process.

  • Receiving the Mission
  • Analyzing the Mission
  • Developing the Course of Action
  • Analyzing the Course of Action
  • Comparing the Course of Action
  • Getting Approval for the Course of Action
  • Producing, Disseminating, and Transitioning Orders

This is a part of the MDMP, short for the military decision making process. In each step, there are inputs and outputs. In general, it is more specific than the above set of steps.

These seven steps focus on collaborative planning and performance. Plus, set the stage for interactions between different military agents, including commanders, staff, headquarters, etc.

COA is an abbreviation for a course of action. Thus, these steps are relatively similar to the steps that we have gone through earlier; specifically steps two: mission analysis, three: COA development, four: COA analysis, and five: COA comparison. Like the previous seven steps, these are carried out sequentially but can be revisited when needed.

The main difference is that these 7 steps to problem solving in the army are more explicitly directed to junior personnel. Hence, the mentioning of orders from higher-ranks, the significant role of commanders, and the need to earn approval before execution.

A mnemonic that service members use to remember this process is M.A.D.A.C.A.P. for:

  • A: Analysis

You might want to remember this for an exam at military school, at NCO, or soldier of the month board.

You can learn more about the MDMP here:

So, there you have it—the 7-step military problem solving process. You should now be aware of two different but equally important sets of steps to problem solving and decision making. If you have any follow-up questions or thoughts, let us know in the comments. We look forward to hearing from you!


I am Everett Bledsoe, taking on the responsibility of content producer for The Soldiers Project. My purpose in this project is to give honest reviews on the gear utilized and tested over time. Of course, you cannot go wrong when checking out our package of information and guide, too, as they come from reliable sources and years of experience.

7-Step Military Problem Solving Process (2023 Guide)

Do you struggle to make big decisions and take decisive action to resolve personal issues? One of the great things about joining the military is that you learn how to make decisions quickly. Members of the military need to be able to think on their feet and quickly create solutions to problems.

When they enlist, recruits are taught a seven-step process for solving problems . This is a systematic approach to issues that recruits have to master as part of their basic training.

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So, let’s take an in-depth look at the 7-step military problem solving process and how you can apply it to daily life.

What is a Problem Solving Process?

What is a Problem Solving Process

This is a specific method that you can use to find the solution to an issue. It should consist of several steps that you need to work through in a particular order. You will only be able to solve the issues when you have mentally worked through all the steps.

This type of lateral and analytical thinking helps you from jumping to a quick conclusion. It allows you to mentally or physically gather all of the connected information and look at it closely. This helps to make sure that you come up with the best solution for the particular situation.

The Seven Steps to Solving Problems

This is a very structured method that can be used to identify and overcome all types of obstacles. It can be used to help you assess the issue and create an effective solution for it. Here are the seven steps that the military has outlined for doing this.

Step 1 – Identify the Issue

Identify the Issue

Before you can solve the issue, you need to work out exactly what it is. This includes analyzing the nature of the issue and how it affects you. You need to mentally distance yourself from the situation a little so that you can see it more clearly.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help identify the issue:

  • When did the issue occur?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where did it occur?
  • Why did it occur?
  • What does it affect?
  • Who does it affect?
  • What is the overall picture?

Step 2 – Make a List of Facts and Assumptions

When analyzing the situation, you need to gather as much information about it as possible. However, not all of the information you have may be accurate or reliable.

It is important to review all the potential “facts” and make sure they hold up to scrutiny. This will help to prevent you from making a final decision based on flawed information.

Step 3 – Create Alternatives

Create Alternatives

There are likely to be several different ways of tackling the issue. You should make a mental list of all the ways of dealing with the issue as well as the pros and cons.

You are sure to find that some options are inferior and can be discarded right away. At the end of this step, you should have at least three potential ways of tackling the issue.

Step 4 – Analyze the Alternatives

Once you have a list of options, it is time to carefully analyze them to work out which action to take. While you can allow your instincts to guide you to a certain extent, it is important to avoid making an emotional decision . The right decision should be a blend of rationality and instinct.

Step 5 – Compare and Contrast the Alternatives

You may find that there are few viable ways of resolving the issue. It is now time to create a list of pros and cons for each option. This will make it easier to see the issue and the different options more clearly.

Step 6 – Make a Final Decision

The option that has the most positives should be the one that you will pick. If you have two or three good options, you should keep the other options as backups.

You may need to refer to them again if your chosen option doesn’t work as hoped. Also, you may want to ask the people around you for advice at this point to see if they choose the same option.

Step 7 – Evaluate the Results

Evaluate the Results

After you have used the chosen option, it is time to carefully evaluate the results. You may find that the solution didn’t go as planned. And the results were either better or worse than expected. Following this step in the plan will help you make better decisions the next time you are faced with the situation.

Tips for Using the Problem Solving Process

Once you have learned the 7-Step Military Problem Solving Process, you will be ready to put it to the test. You may also find that you can create your own method that works just as well. Here are some tips on finding and applying a method that works well for you.

Take your time

While it is necessary to make quick decisions in the military , this isn’t always the case in daily life. Taking a moment and stepping back from the situation may allow you to see it more clearly. Take your time and let the emotions ebb away. You may find that the situation isn’t urgent or stressful.

Practice a range of problem-solving skills

Practice a range of problem-solving skills

There are lots of different skills you can use to help resolve different types of issues. Different situations are likely to call for different types of skills. So, let’s take a closer look at the types of skills you can practice to resolve issues.

  • Communication – if you are seeking help, you need to be able to explain the issue clearly.
  • Active listening – this skill allows you to focus on what people are telling you.
  • Creativity – this allows you to think outside of the box when resolving issues.
  • Lateral thinking – this helps you to determine the quickest way to resolve an issue.
  • Analytical thinking – being about to analyze issues helps you see them more clearly.
  • Teamwork – two heads are better than one, and it can be useful to rely on other people.

Apply your strengths

The way you choose to resolve issues will depend on your particular strengths. Working out your strengths and how they can help you solve issues will make the process easier. It is also a good idea to experiment with different ways of resolving issues to see what works best for you.

Be flexible

There may sometimes be unexpected outcomes when you are working on ways of resolving issues. It is important to be able to think on your feet and tackle different types of challenges as they arise. You need to be able to adapt quickly to different situations and apply the best strategies at the time.

Keep a record of your experiences

You are likely to find that certain types of issues crop up regularly. If an issue was particularly difficult to solve, it is a good idea to write out the approach you took.

Also, make sure you keep a record of the results of the approach and things that could have been done differently. Investing in a journal just for this purpose is sure to be a big help.

You will then be able to refer to this if the issue arises in the future. Seeing the steps you took to solve the issue written down can allow you to evaluate them more clearly. You are likely to be able to spot things you missed at the time that you can adapt in the future.

Focus on long-term outcomes

Part of choosing the right option is foreseeing the impact it will have on other things. Even though the solution you choose may be right for now, it could have negative long-term effects. You need to be able to think ahead and make sure the option you choose will not backfire.

Seek input

No man is an island, and there is no reason why you should have to make important decisions by yourself. You are likely to have close friends or family members who have faced the same type of issue in the past. Seeking the input of these people can help make it much easier to determine the right decision.

In many cases, they may be able to guide you to the right decision-making technique. However, in some cases, these people may have disaster stories based on making the wrong decision. Often, knowing what not to do is just as valuable as knowing what to do.

Test and review your approach

Once you have mapped out the process you will follow, it is time to sit back and analyze it for a minute. If you are sure you want to go ahead, it’s time to get out your journal and make clear notes. Take careful records of the outcome and how you would approach the same issue in the future.

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7-Step Military Problem Solving Process – Conclusion

Learning the military method of solving problems can help you in various areas of your life. Mastering this technique will teach you how to practice critical thinking. This is essentially a calm and slow way of seeing the situation as clearly as possible.

Practicing the techniques outlined in the steps will teach you how to analyze different situations. When you can do this without focusing on your emotions, you are sure to see situations more clearly. Practice with small issues, and you are sure to find that solving big issues soon becomes a breeze.

Until next time, use your head and stay safe out there.

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About Wayne Fletcher

Wayne is a 58 year old, very happily married father of two, now living in Northern California. He served our country for over ten years as a Mission Support Team Chief and weapons specialist in the Air Force. Starting off in the Lackland AFB, Texas boot camp, he progressed up the ranks until completing his final advanced technical training in Altus AFB, Oklahoma. He has traveled extensively around the world, both with the Air Force and for pleasure. Wayne was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal, First Oak Leaf Cluster (second award), for his role during Project Urgent Fury, the rescue mission in Grenada. He has also been awarded Master Aviator Wings, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and the Combat Crew Badge. He loves writing and telling his stories, and not only about firearms, but he also writes for a number of travel websites.

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The 7 Steps in Problem Solving

The MDMP (Military Decision Making Process) and TLPs (Troop Leading Procedures) are both based on the Army Problem Solving Process , which is described in FM 22-100.  In this article, we will explore the sequence of steps that will help any leader work through a problem.  Here are the 7 Steps in Problem Solving.

#1. ID the Problem: This involves recognizing what the root problem really is and defining that problem precisely.  It is often easy to be distracted by the symptoms of a problem but it is essential to determine the root cause.  You can define the problem by asking yourself these questions:

  • Who is affected?
  • What is affected?
  • When did it occur?
  • Where is the problem?
  • Why did it occur?

Also, consider the end state that you want.  How will things look when everything is done?

#2. ID Facts and Assumptions: Get whatever facts you can in the time you have.  Remember, facts are what you know about the situation.  Some good resources for facts are ARs, policies, and doctrine.  Assumptions are what you believe about the situation but do not have facts to support.  As a general rule, try to assume as little as possible.  Analyze the facts and assumptions you ID to determine the scope of the problem.

#3. Generate Alternatives: This is where you develop the ways to solve the problem.  Always try to develop more than one approach.  You can’t possibly ID the best solution without considering more than one alternative and these alternatives should have significant differences.  Sometimes, if time permits, include input from your peers and subordinates.  This brainstorming promotes a faster free flow of ideas and generally can avoid rejecting promising alternatives.

#4. Analyze the Alternatives:  Obvious, right?  However, many fail to ID the intended and unintended consequences, resources and other limitations and each alternative’s advantages and disadvantages.  Be sure to consider all your alternatives according to your screening and evaluation criteria (i.e. factors that a solution must have for you to consider it a feasible option).  If a COA fails to meet your screening criteria, reject it, regardless of its other advantages.

#5. Compare Alternatives: Evaluate each alternative’s cost and benefit of success.  Think past the immediate future.  How will this decision change things tomorrow?  Next week? Next year?  Compare your alternatives simultaneously if you can.  Try utilizing a table or matrix that will lay out each COA and how each compares to the evaluation criteria.

#6. Make and Execute Your Decision: To help you make a decision, it may be helpful to assign a numerical value to your criteria as a way of ranking them.  For most decisions, a quick review of the weighted criteria will be enough to reveal the best solution.  Make your decision, prepare a plan of action and put it into motion!

#7. Assess the Results: It isn’t over just because you made a decision.  After all, we all make mistakes.  You will need to monitor the execution of your plan and be prepared to change it as necessary.  This step can be made easier by establishing critical steps or milestones that must take place on time in order to guarantee success.  Follow up on results and make further adjustments as needed.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Think of a decision you have made recently.  Did you follow all these steps?  Would your decision have been different if you had?

Leave your comments below. If you have any questions, you can ask those here too.

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4 thoughts on “The 7 Steps in Problem Solving”

The 7 steps to solve problems are: pinpoint the problem, identify the eacts and assumptions, craft alternatives, analyze the generated alternatives, weigh between the generated alternatives, make and carry out your final decision, evaluate the results from your decision.

When problems arise it’s easy to panic and throw caution to the wind. An organized list like this can help you analyze the situation and make the best possible decisions. Keeping a rational mind is important and thinking of all the possible outcomes will help identify the risk vs. reward ratio.

This process makes solving problems so much simpler. I use the 7 Steps in Problem Solving in my business and civilian life too. It works great.

Thanks for the post.

This is a good summary about the problem solving process. One of the major issues I have observed with regard to leaders involved in the problem solving process is that leaders fail to understand or analyze the unintended consequences of their actions. Our military is currently experiencing a major downsizing. As a result Soldiers are being separated from service for issues that previously would have been seen as an honest mistake or as a learning experience for an immature Soldier. In paragraph one you state:

“How will things look when everything is done?” When Leaders ask themselves this question they must also understand that their actions or recommendations could result in the issue being removed from their level of responsibility. Let’s say a Soldier is consistently late to formation. In the past the leader may have recommended an Article 15 to get the Soldier’s attention. Previously a Soldier could survive an Article 15 and go on to have a successful and productive career.

Recommending an Article 15 in today’s environment is almost a guarantee the Soldier will be separated from service. Therefore it is incredibly important the leader understand the unintended consequences of their decisions. When they ask themselves “How will things look when everything is done?” If that visions includes the Soldier being retained in service they must seek other alternatives to correcting substandard performance such as: verbal counseling, written counseling, corrective training, revocation of privileges, local letters of reprimand, etc.

Fully understanding the consequences of your decisions and how they impact your subordinates ensures you are making a decision that is in the best interest of the Soldier and the Army. For more information on revocation of privileges read The Mentor- Everything you need to know about leadership and counseling. It is available at your local military clothing and sales store or online at

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