you study the six basic steps in problem solving,
using the six-column approach.
Determine the facts. All good objective reasoning
is based on facts, things, or events that have actually
occurred. People often interject assumptions that are
subjective and have not occurred. Insist that your
group deal only with the facts as outlined in each
problem; or, if an assumption is accepted, ensure that
it is identified as an assumption, not as a fact.
Delay discussion of any facet of the problem until
you are sure you have obtained all pertinent facts.
After the group has discussed the problem and agreed
on the facts, list the facts under column 1.
Define the problem. In any human relations
incident or any other problem, there are usually two
elements or problemsthe apparent and the underly-
ing. You will notice this when your group tries to
define the problem. Most people can easily see the
immediate problem: the equipment does not work,
someone is in trouble, relationships are poor between
The person must face all these problems. A person
can often define the immediate (apparent) problem,
but usually he must be trained to define the underly-
ing difficulty. A statement defining the problem
should be written out; an oral statement is not enough.
The group should analyze the written definition criti-
cally and come to an agreement concerning it. Only
then is the group equipped to explore the best possible
course of action. Enter the result in column 2.
that there are many alternative solutions. In this
phase, you are not evaluating the course of action;
you are merely listing the alternatives. Enter the pos-
sible courses of action under column 3.
(Step 4 determines, to a large degree, which of the
courses of action from column 3 you may effectively
use in solving the problem.)
Step 4Consequences of Possible Actions
Determine the consequences, if any, of possible
actions. No leader worthy of the name leaps to the
solution of a problem without considering the conse-
quences of all proposed courses of action. What will
occur if I do this instead of that? You, as a military
leader, are responsible for the action you take. There-
fore, you must be completely aware of the conse-
quences of each decision you make. Consider the
relative importance of each course of action. Enter the
result in column 4.
(Since step 5 involves the use of manpower and/or
materials, you must consider this step carefully to ob-
tain the most economical result. This phase of the
problem requires much discussion and thought.)
Step 5Accepted Courses of Action
Determine the accepted courses of action. One (or
a combination) of the possible actions will be chosen
as the solution to the problem. Do not think that you
need unanimous agreement to achieve a solution.
Usually, you should give serious consideration to
the opinion of the majority; however, the final deci-
sion is your responsibility as leader, based on your
personal evaluation of the facts and recommendations
submitted. Enter the result in column 5.
Step 3Possible Actions
Step 6Cause of the Problem
Determine possible solutions. Most problems have
many possible courses of action to achieve solutions.
Before you decide on any single course of action, try
to determine all the courses of action. In handling
technical or human-relations problems, you may find
Identify the cause of the problem. Hypothetically,
you have now solved the immediate problem; it no
longer exists. What is left for you to do? You should
ask, What caused this problem to occur? By asking