“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. ” Sun Tzu
Many times, in real life the uniformed personnel are made fun of as being incapable of living without planning every single moment of their life. It is said that the men and women in uniform can thrive even in chaos because a uniformed combatant knows how to find an opportunity within chaos and reap dividends out of it. A lot of planning and deliberation goes on in the military briefing rooms prior to taking any action, be it a Convocation Parade or a strike operation in the enemy’s territories. And the better the planning, the better is the Mission. Hence, it is essential for every SSB aspirant who wants to join the Indian Armed Forces to be equipped with precise and effective group planning.
Many scholars feel that the ability to plan and organise is an innate quality just like courage and determination. On the other hand, behaviourists feel that it is in fact possible to build this ability through concentrated efforts and training given to an individual in social institutions such as family, school or community clubs. Be it innate or acquired, it is pertinent to check whether an individual is capable of planning his own life and find solutions with the help of an unfamiliar group of people in a totally unfamiliar situation. This ability to plan and organise multiple events of different priorities yet essential to be conducted simultaneously is assessed in the SSB interview in the form of a Group Planning Task.
Let us try to find out more about the task and the right manner to prepare for such a task.
What is Group Planning Exercise at SSB?
“Vision without execution is hallucination.” Thomas Edison
Group Planning Exercise at SSB consists of a situational problem which the GTO explains to the candidates with the help of a sand model. This problem is designed in such a way that it allows the candidate to select one/ more actions as probable solution for the problem. Every candidate will have a different way of looking at the situation and provide solutions. Hence, this task is carried out in two phases:
- individual planning phase: each candidate writes down his/her own solution to the problem
- group planning phase: all the candidates would be mutually discussing the problem and arrive on one common plan of action.
How is Group Planning Exercise conducted at SSB?
“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night and when you move , fall like a thunderbolt.” Sun Tzu
Group Planning Exercise at SSB is conducted after a very short gap of the 02 Group Discussions that take place on Day III of level II selection at SSB. GTO takes the candidates to the Briefing hall where the model depicting the situational problem is kept. GTO explains the situation and then the problem which the situation poses. But the first briefing of the task is done away from the model so that they are not distracted and they listen to the problem carefully. The candidates are given five minutes to read their copy of narrative (situation with the problem it poses) and doubts, if any, are clarified by the GTO.
Then the candidates are assembled in a semi-circle around the model and each candidate is provided with a sheet of paper for writing down the individual solution in about 10 minutes. Candidates are discouraged to discuss the problem till this point. After 10 minutes, the narrative card and the solutions written by each candidate individually are taken back.
The group planning phase starts where again, in a free for all, informal way, the group starts to discuss the situation at hand and their plan of action. The total time given for this discussion happens to be 20 minutes. At the end, any one candidate is asked to present the group solution to the GTO.
What are candidates expected to do in Group Planning exercise at SSB?
“There are dreamers and there are planners; the planners make their dreams come true.“
During the individual and the group planning phase, it will help the candidates if they showcase their planning and organising skills through
- defining the problem systematically, for example: saving life of the poached elephants in the Rani Village
- analysing various activities/issues that may be accompanying the problem, for example: fire in the village bank, an accident on the highway near the village temple
- suggesting alternatives to solve the problem, for example: 02 people can douse the fire, 02 others can give first aid to the injured kid, 02 others can go on a bicycle to Range Forest Officer to inform about the poaching
- evaluating and prioritising the alternatives, for example: saving life takes priority over all the other activities, then stopping damage to property due to fire and then any other activity
- agreeing to the solution given by the majority and arriving on one common plan of action
What does the GTO assess in Group Planning Exercise at SSB?
” There are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, those who wonder what happened. Where do you belong?“
During a group planning task, different candidates may behave differently. A few candidates have very good plans, yet they fail to express the plan convincingly, some others seize the plans of these candidates and attempt to get credit for them by expressing these plans impressively; some others will be just watching and waiting for their turns. A candidate who would be actually enjoying the task would be able to objectively evaluate his own plans, be open to mix and match others ideas with his/her own to gain optimum results.
In this task, the GTO is looking for someone like this who displays the following abilities in addition to the 15 Officer Like Qualities such as:
- ability to think constructively and imaginatively
- ability to appreciate a situation both in detail and as a whole
- objectivity and clarity of thought
- open-mindedness to the problem
- good-will/ cooperation towards others
- contribution towards the collective plan of action
- ability to influence the group and accept one’s plan of actions
- ability to select and coordinate best out of his/her own and others plan of action
How can the candidates prepare for Group Planning at SSB?
“The effective execution of a plan is what counts and not mere planning on paper; it is not what we put on our plate or even what we eat that provides nourishment and growth, but what we digest. ” JRD Tata
Throughout this blog, while i discussed the Group Planning exercise in detail, I have not once called this exercise a test. So, by now readers, especially the SSB aspirants must have understood that this exercise is again not a test to be afraid of, but a task which you need to enjoy and excel at. If the ability for planning activities is part of your life you need not to worry at all. If you keep this in mind and actually enjoy the whole process of Group Planning exercise at SSB, you will love to perform well and in fact, you WILL perform well.
In group planning task, the most important quality that the GTO is looking for is Group Cohesiveness in addition to individual planning and organising ability. Hence working in a group and possessing the ability to influence the group while doing so, is the only practice one would need to excel in this task
Now that this fact is clear, it may happen so that due to the modalities of the conduct of the task or the format or the unfamiliar company, one may feel nervous and not be able to perform well. For reducing the chances of such mishaps, one can practice extra for a few days before going to the SSB interview:
- Start with daily planning: Take more interest in planning your daily activities first thing in the morning or if needed, a day prior, at night.
- Maintain a diary/Planner: Start writing down the tasks for the day, one after the other in the order of priority or chronology. This will help you weed out the unnecessary activities and help you focus more on the important ones.
- Learn to declutter: Many times, what proves to be a deterrent to planning is the thought that your mind can handle multiple things at a time. This is not true, as human mind is not capable of concentrating on too many things at the same time. Hence, start with focusing on one thing at a time, demarcate different time, places and people for different activities. This will help you focus more on different skills in your life. The first step to do this can be cleaning your bedroom, your study desk or even your wardrobe/ cupboard.
- Socialise/ Contribute on weekends with different age-groups: Plan a visit to shelter homes for street children, Juvenile Remand Homes, Senior Citizen Homes, with your friends/ family if possible. If not try to plan some kind of activity with your family/ friends at home on weekends. This would give you a perspective on how your family members/ friends behave in different groups. It may also tell you more about your own personality type and how you interact in groups.
In short, make planning and organising a part of life, and ensure that you belong to the category of people who make things happen in their/ others’ lives with their actions. Remember while planning, the order of priority needs to be:
- Saving/ Nurturing Human/ animal/ natural Life on earth
- Safeguarding National Property from any kind of damage
- Your own personal safety, health and happiness
Know more about other Group Situational Tasks at SSB in my next blog