Military leaders make decisions and solve problems every day. Some need a decision quickly while others can take time. The US Army has several decision-making methods to assist leaders. The Army Problem Solving Model (Process) (PSM) is a systematic approach to identifying the best possible solution to an issue or problem and a deliberate method of decision-making (FM 6-0, 2009). Leaders use it to solve a problem when time is not critical and they can put some thought into different solutions. The solution must be objective and based on facts in order for the decision to be relevant and practical. The Rapid Decision Making and Synchronization Process (RDM) is a decision-making and synchronization technique typically used during the execution phase of an operation (FM 5-0, 2010). Besides its use during execution, this style of decision making is quick and focuses on the ability to modify the plan, due to changing circumstances, and synchronize those changes with subordinate elements. Determining which method to apply requires an understanding of the similarities and differences of both techniques.
Although the process a staff uses to solve a problem may differ, the foremost thing about the two methods is that they are systematic and proven ways to determine solutions. The military uses these methods to solve their problems or to identify ways to accomplish missions, even though the names are comparatively new. By using these approaches, new personnel can easily integrate into a planning process and have a good understanding of what is going on. Problem solving uses assumptions in order to develop solutions and RDM uses intuition. Intuition is a gut feeling and assumptions are educated guesses, they are essentially the same since both base identified information on experience or known facts. Neither one actually gives definitive information but this info is used because it is a normal occurrence or typical in the situation.
Obviously, both techniques are a process to make decisions based on relevant facts, with guidance from the commander, in order to achieve the desired end state. Although the steps may differ between the methods, the final step, implementation, is the same. A decision is worthless if not implemented. The process used may not be the same but in order to achieve the end state subordinates need to receive orders and directions. Another way that PSM and RDM are alike is with the use of Course of Action (COA) development. Both develop a solution that is capable of arrive at the desired end state; the difference is the number of COAs developed and the process by which they are approved or judged.
Understanding the differences helps to ensure the appropriate method to use. The most notable and important difference is the length of time each takes. PSM is time consuming due to the analytical process used to arrive at a viable solution whereas RDM is quicker because it relies more on a combination of intuition and...