Group Planning Exercise (GPE) in SSB Interviews – Explained

by Girish Singh on June 18, 2014

group planning exerciseWelcome back, this is the fifth article in the series. Till the last articles, we nearly discussed the proceedings till the start of the first day of the group testing. The next test that is immediately after group discussions is group planning exercise, or GPE.

The first thing about GPE – It is not rocket science. There is a lot of stuff in books that are available in the market and over the internet about how to approach it, how to write down the proper solution and how to approach GPE’s GD. Yes, there is again a group discussion in end of GPE. So guys, this article is not the same one like the others available everywhere. We will start with a brief introduction and then I will try to explain the actual things that I realized while sitting there in the SSB’s I appeared for. Let’s start with a basic understanding of what group planning is.

Group planning is nothing but reaching a common solution, the best solution in a group to any given situation. To plan the things coherently, in a logical and practical manner. To see the details carefully, and take into account every possible prospect that can affect the projected solution.

How GPE is Conducted

This test is designed to check the decision making capabilities of aspirants in a situation where time is constrained. The Group testing officer, hereafter referred as GTO, explains the situation on a map painted on a wooden board. The map shows different roads, rivers, train tracks, temple and practically anything that can occur in the real map. Beauty of the GPE lies in the fact that there are too many details, and GTO tells them all. It’s up to you that how many you remember. For example, he may show you a dispensary, marked by a little house on the map, but being focused so much on the other areas, you may end up totally missing it! So, sit with all your senses at their highest levels. Try to remember, if not all, as many details as you can.

Now, GTO will read up the problem statement. Now, point to be noted here is that remember it’s all serious business. You are sitting in an actual test, and so try to use every second to your advantage. Think, correlate the problem on the map and try to identify things that others may miss. Obviously, first understand the problem very clearly. The problem statement is usually written on a paper and GTO, after he is done reading it, will allow you to read the problem and understand it from our own sheets. The time provided usually for this activity is 5 minutes. Again, try to collect and understand all the details.

In the next few minutes, GTO will ask you to write down your individual solutions on the paper provided to you. Make the best solution you can. The approach used to make the solution is widely known. Usually there are multiple problems, so prioritize the problems, make individual solutions, allocate the resources (men, time), take into account the distance and time, and knit a proper practical solution. You can read this stuff and can solve a few mock problems over internet before going. In the next few paragraphs, however, I will try to tell what I felt actually while sitting there and how things went sideways.

When I appeared in my first SSB, I knew nothing about how to approach GPE, though I knew a few things about group discussion. I was in a group of freshers, all in their pre final year, appearing just for the sake of it, all equally clueless about what military planning is. So when GTO read out the problem, we were all smiling, feeling excited. We were not attentive, so we obviously left out the details (dispensary as I told). So, in the problem, when we all finally agreed that we have to take care of the guy who is lying serious, we agreed to send him to hospital. GTO asked us, “Which hospital, where is the Hospital?” and I replied, “Sir there must be some hospital in the town which is nearby” totally forgetting about the dispensary, only to be left feeling like a fool later.

Then after a long heated discussion, when finally all of us agreed to divide the group into subgroups in the problem to handle all the 4 problems simultaneously, we did it the wrong way. To let you know a perspective, in the problem there were 10 students while 4 problems were there. A group of terrorists trying to bomb a train track, a guy fallen critically sick, an old women who had lost her cattle and a group of goons who have kidnapped a girl.

We allotted 2 of the students to take care of the sick guy, giving it the first priority, 4 of the students to the terrorists trying to bomb the tracks, two of the students to kidnapped girl, and two of the students to the old woman. We made a solution, not an ideal one.

The GTO sat there, without much expressions, seeing us discuss. He finally got up and asked who will conclude the solution. I lead the GD throughout so the group mates volunteered me to do it. I stood up and that is when I realized how bad things can be in a GPE.

GTO- “Are you sure you are going to allocate two of you guys to the kidnapped girl?”

There was no point in changing the solution, so I replied- “Yes Sir!”

GTO- “How will two of you rescue the girl?”

I realized the gravity of the situation now. There is no way by which two students can overpower four armed goons and can rescue the girl. I was naïve, but I thought backing out now would mean letting my team down. So I made a plan which was obviously not very practical.

“Sir, one of us will act as a hostage negotiator. That will be me, I will go in the front of the house they are keeping her and will say, “I am here to represent the girls family. The girl mean nothing to me, I am here for the fee that her family will pay me if I get her home safely. I have brought the money you asked for. The girl also does not mean anything to you because you are just holding her for the ransom you asked for. So, let’s make a deal. You give me the girl, I give you the money and everybody go home quietly. I get the girl first.””

GTO- “Okay then?”

“Sir then they will come out to see the money. My other friend will ambush one of them from behind, will overpower him and we will make the goons surrender”

And this is how it ended-

GTO- “That’s a very nice plan but the only flaw is that you both will end up getting tied with the girl a few minutes later you show up”

We all laughed. GTO ignored us and then rapidly made us calculate the time that we will need to cross the map from one place to second to third.

Two of our group were recommended out of the three in all.

I realized at the end that it was definitely not our absurd approach that left an impact there. It was the ingenuity and the willingness to try to come clean when surrounded in problems. I wonder what would have been the result if we would have changed the story instead of sticking to the one we decided with the group.

I hope I made my point somewhat clear. There is nothing as known as the ideal solution. Believe in what you think, have confidence and try to think straight and logical. And at last, it was my experience, things can be very different. Do what you think is the best.

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