Take a breather with the 'Five Ps'

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Youtsey
  • 39th Operations Squadron commander
A quick glance at the wing's calendar shows that within the past year, we have had more than our share of challenges and inspections, excelling at most. With so much behind us, we may finally have an opportunity to catch our breath and reflect before meeting our next challenge. 

As a fighter pilot, I was taught that when I had time between engagements with the threat, I should run through a thought process called the "Five Ps": Pause, Position, Picture, Plan and Pitchback. Simply stated, the "Five Ps" help us re-assess our situation and our capabilities to meet foreseeable challenges and applies to our personal life as well as to the "life" of our unit. 

First, "Pause" ... to pause, we have to have available time and/or energy. Once we recognize the opportunity to pause, we need to quantify the length of time available so we can determine how much time to devote to the remaining steps. With our runway being closed, many of us have an excellent pause opportunity right now. 

Next, we determine our "Position" ... figuring out our position with respect to other team members is fundamental to developing a plan forward. Are wingmen close enough to be of immediate assistance if needed? Do they need our help? Perhaps we need to make a minor adjustment so the team is able to support everyone involved. 

After we understand our position with respect to our team, we develop a "Picture" of what our next threats and challenges are. To do this, we collect information from team members and other external sources and use them to build a common picture of reality. 
Comparing this common picture of reality to what we expected allows everyone to determine where they are compared to where they need to be. 

Once we know where we are, we can develop a "Plan" to get to where we need to be. The best plans normally require the minimum amount of resources and demand as little from wingmen as possible, since they are making similar adjustments. Knowing that wingmen are adjusting their position to execute the plan illustrates the trust required to keep the United States Air Force "Above All." We do that better than most organizations on the planet. 

Occasionally the picture isn't anywhere close to expectations and the plan requires significant change. This is where the team needs a strong leader and well-trained and empowered wingmen who can step in and effect change. Good flight leaders develop that capacity in wingmen for this reason and actively seek out good ideas. The same applies to good leaders on the ground. 

Once we develop and clearly communicate the plan, the leader directs everyone to "Pitchback" ... This means turning and aggressively executing the plan. After the team executes the pitchback, the time for new ideas has passed and everyone must execute their part of the plan in order for the team to be successful. 

The "Five Ps" may have been developed by the world's finest fighter pilots, but anyone can use it on the way to achieving their goals. 

If you get the opportunity, or can create the opportunity, you can use the "Five Ps" to stay on, or get back on, course toward achieving your worthy goals ... Pause, Position, Picture, Plan and Pitchback.