The Estimate Process for Non-Combat Decision-Making


There are many of us in the RAF who have never heard of the Estimate and others who have heard of it but have not had any tuition in its use. As a result, it is often considered something of a ‘black art’ and strictly for the use of senior personnel who are involved in planning air battles. This is not so. This article is an attempt to produce a simple example of the Estimate, applied to a non-combat project, and is intended to illustrate the ease and usefulness of the process.

So What Is It?

The Estimate is a 7-stage decision making tool designed to deliver a course of action from a body of information. In the military context it is complementary to, and assists in the implementation of, Mission Command. The process is logical but allows for the use of intuition and, as we will see below, it can be used for purposes other than military campaign planning.

The 7 stages are as follows:

  1. Review of the Situation – this entails consideration of as much background information as possible.
  2. Mission Analysis – the product of this stage is the Mission Statement – the ‘what and why’ or the task and purpose. N.B. the how is not included at this stage.
  3. Evaluation of Factors – a list of tasks, constraints and points for clarification that underpin future detailed planning.
  4. Commander’s Guidance on Courses of Action (COAs) – the intuitive part. The person in charge gives direction on the COAs that the planning team are to develop based upon what he/she thinks is within the art of the possible and what might prove to be crucial. This does not preclude the team from thinking and questioning.
  5. Development and Validation of COAs – following the guidance given in the previous stage, the planning team develops a series of COAs for consideration and then validates each one.
  6. Evaluation of COAs – a ‘cost/benefit analysis’ takes place for each COA that has been produced.
  7. The Final Decision – the person in charge decides which option, or combination of options, to choose based on logic and intuition and this forms a directive for the completion of all detailed planning and future action.

Things to Remember

Although there are 7 stages, the process is not strictly linear; it is iterative. In other words, you need to revisit previous stages every so often to check that things are still on track and that the mission or the factors have not changed. Changes can take place in any fluid situation, especially a battle, but just as easily in a peace-time activity.


The above was written and published by the RAF, and the full article can be read here: Estimate Process for Non-Combat Decision-Making, The.


RAF (n.d.) The Estimate Process for Non-Combat Decision-Making. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 14 July, 2015].


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