Sunday, 15 March 2015


This course was designed for the officer cadets training at the Joint Services College of Papua New Guinea at Igam Barracks in Lae from 1978.

The Program in Problem Solving (PIPS) is almost as old as independent PNG. It still has value in the PNGDF and in organizations wanting to give basic commonsense skills in checking, double-checking and time management to managers and supervisors.

Norman Sike Institute  Phone 72153255.

Major B. D. Copeland BA BEdSt  Royal Australian Army Educational Corps ( Retd)

Chapter 1    Checking as military training

My involvement in decision-making skills began with my posting in 1975 to the Joint Services College of Papua New Guinea. I was to be the training officer at a time when the Army Training System did not exist.

But I had made a name for myself with regular comment on the problems of training. I had started on the importance of Mastery Learning in military education and training.

Someone decided that I would be most suitable for training at the new Joint Services College of Papua New Guinea at Igam Barracks Lae. So in 1975, I was posted to work at the Academic Studies Wing. That was not a good start. Please click:

mastery learning brought me to papua new guinea - family ...
Feb 15, 2014 - The Australian Army sent me to Papua New Guinea 
in 1975 to work as a training ... archive on mastery learning for schools - 
family positive living - aids . ... The question was how to best employ 
Copeland or how to get rid of him. I was posted to the Joint 
Services College of Papua New Guinea in 1975

The officer cadets were being trained by Australian teachers in military uniform who were totally unaware of the problems of teaching young men just arrived from PNG high schools who knew very little.

They said that Education was a sacred skill not to be interfered with by trainers. Education had no objectives according to these silly teachers but was to be whatever the foreign teachers wanted it to be. They rejected Mastery Learning as an area of knowledge that was anti-education.

I was moved to the Advanced Defence Training Wing to conduct more practical courses in Administration. I was not happy that the Australian instructors spent their time lecturing with the officer cadets sitting listening to foreigners speaking a level of English that the officer cadets did not understand.

I was also to take officer cadets for Current Affairs and found great difficulty even though this was a subject that I had taken in Australia in training both soldiers and officers.

Officer cadets knew very little about any world affairs. I ended up gathering Time Magazines and Newsweeks and putting together articles and questions on topics I hoped the officer cadets would understand.

Back in those days was the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, the Egyptian army being forced across the Suez Canal, the oil embargo threatened against Japan, rise in oil prices, formation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the sacking of Gough Whitlam.

Chapter 2  -  New broom sweeps clean - planning and checking

I was not happy with the training of Officer Cadets. Relationships between the Australian and PNG officers were not good. Both groups drank at the Officers’ Mess.

Australians drank at the bar and PNG officers drank in the beer garden. Never the two would mix. The Australians would often spend time telling stories about what the stupid blackfellas did. Did you hear what Lt Rava did at the Q Store last week. He got this consignment of cartons see....and...

I decided that a new approach to training was about to happen. I would be the one to do it. Many of the errors told by Australians at the bar were about PNG officers not planning or checking properly. That would be the new course - planning and checking.

So I started to collect scenarios where errors had been made. A PNG duty officer was recently given 10 extra duties for releasing a prisoner from the cells.

In the Australian Army there was no training in errors made by officers. They were just given extra nights as Duty Officer. No explanation by the officer in charge was ever given. The young officer was just expected to spend the 10 nights working out what he did wrong. This is lower level training that the PNGDF officers inherited.

Actually, I had started on collecting errors in the months before while working in the Academic Studies Wing. So very quickly, I had a long repertoire of problems for the Officers to discuss and solve.

Problems were taken from Duty Officer situations, stock-take errors, thefts in the bar stock and funds, phone problems, response to an ID card, booking vehicles, tactical problems, errors in accounting in the bar and military scenarios across history and the world.

As well, I spread out to civilian problems that required the same basic checking and double-checking. There were buying a car, forgery in land titles, responding to an intruder, ordering fake goods, stranger danger for children and false advertisements in newspapers.

In recent years, I have become involved again and updated the scenarios, particularly with internet fraud, misuse of credit cards, stealing of identity and false certificates in job applications.

Double checking a calculation
Horizontal and vertical checks
Release the prisoner
Black car over Mexican border
Accounting for equipment of a patrol.
Bombing the ball bearing factory
Man who never was
HIV double check test.
Call the roll. Count heads.
What is a parade?
Checking equipment in the office.
Check identity by ID card.
Check identity with SMK.
Theft of identity.
Check by drivers’ license.
Stealing wheel barrows.
Australian rescue scam.
Tricks of smugglers.
Civilian in uniform.
Problems of checking a policeman.
When a double-check is too much.
What does a police ID card look like?
Fake educational certificates
Destroying the submarine
What was your mother’s name?
Of course I wrote the letter.
When auditor is accountant.
A double-check not a double-check?
Independent investigation.
The shadow board.
Pass all books to the front.
Double-check in medical diagnosis.
If this then this.  If that then that.
Who security cleared me? I did sir..
Counting logs in the river.

Chapter 3   A Program in Problem Solving (PIPS)

The course developed quickly and was trialed on the officer cadets of the Advanced Defence Training Wing including several young officers destined to be Commanders of the PNGDF and senior officers from the 1980s to 2015.

The module in Checking and Double-checking became a popular activity with the Officer Cadets. They were not lectured to but had to work out the solutions by common sense. 

Slowly they came to understand the theory behind the processes of checking and double-checking. Lack of knowledge of these skills is the basis of so many errors. Some say these skills are common sense, These skills can be taught.

The module in Time Management has been posted as a blog below.

People make errors in checking for many reasons. They are tricked by fake identity and do not check properly. When they check, they use a means of checking in which fraud has been involved. They accept one means of checking but are tricked by further fraud.

Checking and double-checking involves using a method of checking independent of the first method.

PLAYING TRICKS WITH INFORMATION.  Con-men find information and gain entry by listening to  information other people give away. He approaches a person in the street and says he knows him from somewhere. 

The victim asks "Do you know me?" "Did you live in Rabaul?" Yes. "Were you there in 1995?" Yes. "Were you a friend of my brother John?" Yes. The victim supplied all the information and the con-man has just said yes. The victim thinks the person is an old family friend. But he is really a complete stranger playing tricks.

This person has been foolish in supplying all information. I have been greeted in the street by con-men who say they know me. If he insists, I ask if he lived in Kundiawa in 1991. A con-man will say yes. Did you work at the hotel? Yes. Was your wife a friend of my wife? Yes. 

Then I say that he must be thinking of someone else. I have never lived in Kundiawa and have never been married. Then I walk away. The con-man has been conned. If he had said No. No. No, he is probably not a con-man. 

Once establishing he is an old friend, next step is to ask for K20 to pay for transport back to the village for his mother's funeral. Ah, PNG, the land of the expected.

RELEASE THE PRISONER. A young lieutenant was duty officer at the barracks. During the night, the phone rang and the caller identified as the Commanding Officer. He told the Duty Officer to go to the cells and release the prisoner.

The Duty Officer was unsure but the caller insisted. The officer decided to check so he asked the caller for his telephone number and he rang back. The caller was angry that he had done this and shouted at him. It must be the Commanding Officer. So the Duty Officer released the prisoner.

In the morning, the Commanding Officer was furious that the prisoner had been released. He did not ring the Duty Room and order his release. The Duty Officer had made a mistake.

What was the mistake? He had asked the caller for his telephone number. He should have taken the number of the Commanding Officer from the list in the duty room. If unsure, he should have rung the 2IC or driven to the house of the Commanding Officer and checked.

WHAT IS YOUR MOTHER'S MAIDEN NAME?  A man had an account with an international banking organization. He completed the application form and was accepted. Money came to him overseas on request through his bank. Then he lost his ATM card. On phoning the bank overseas, he was asked to confirm his identity. What was your mothers maiden name? What high school did you go to? Then they processed his request on his correct answering.

This is a quite deadly check. Only the applicant could know this information taken from his application form.

There were other checks too. He applied through his bank. Each fortnight, he had to fax his request with his account number and signature. Someone who stole the ATM card would get access to only one fortnight's funds if the client would provide the pin number.

 If the card was lost the client would advise the overseas company. No money would be forwarded until a new card was sent.

THE MILITARY PARADE. What is a military parade? It is a 100% stock take of the soldiers and their equipment. At times it will involve the inspection of clean rifles. If there are 30 soldiers in the platoon, there will be 3 rows of 10 soldiers. There can be few tricks to be played by soldiers. Thirty soldiers means 30 rifles, 30 pairs of boots and 30 military shirts and trousers.

INSPECTION IN THE OFFICE. The officer decided to inspect the 30 soldiers in his office. So he had the sergeant line up the soldiers and they came in one at a time to be inspected.

What was the error in this approach? He could not review all soldiers at one time. There may not have been 30 soldiers unless he counted. Inspection of clean rifles was flawed by the fact that the 30 soldiers passed 5 clean rifles among them. The officer did not know he had inspected only 5 rifles. This is a silly  scenario as no officer would surely make such a mistake.

PUT EQUIPMENT IN A PILE. The platoon had just come back from an exercise. The officer told the sergeant to have the soldiers put their equipment in a pile outside the Q store. This was done by 30 soldiers. When the equipment was taken into the Q store, it was found there was only 26 items of equipment. It seemed that 4 had been taken away by soldiers.

What was the error? The equipment should not have been piled but handed in by each soldier and his name marked off. Now there is no way of knowing who had handed gear in.

Better still, there should have been a parade outside the Q store with 3 rows of 10 soldiers standing beside their equipment. They could have left at that point with 3 rows of 10 pieces of equipment to be collected.

MAPS PASSED TO THE FRONT. The platoon was in the class room studying map reading with compasses. There were 15 maps and 15 compasses. At the end of the lesson, the officer had the soldiers pass maps and compasses to the front. After the lesson, he counted to find 15 maps and 9 compasses. The soldiers still had 6 compasses.

What error was made? The compasses and maps should have been collected desk by desk. Or the soldiers pass these one at a time to the front table. The equipment is counted and only then the soldiers are dismissed.

COUNTING THE TROOPS. In a military academy, the duty student had the task of reporting to the incoming staff member the number on roll 32 - number present 32. Should the instructor accept this advice?

What should he do? He should carry on with the lesson but quietly count the heads in the class. He already has the class numbers in his notebook. Yes there are 32 on roll but a count of heads reveals that there are only 29 present. The duty student has given wrong advice. This has been a double-check. When we double-check, we use a method independent of the original method.

CHECKING AN ID CARD.  Let us focus on drivers' licences. In Papua New Guinea, a driver's licence has a photo and little other information. In other countries, the licence has the eye colour of the holder as well as date of birth.

How can a policemen check that the holder is the owner of the licence? He can check the photo but that is often unreliable. It is more effective to ask the driver who produces the licence the colour of his eyes. Ummm green. Sorry driver - blue. What is your birth date? I can not remember. Please get out of the car. This is an independent check and double-check.

MISUSE OF EDUCATION CERTIFICATES. A training officer was given the task of processing 89 applicants for positions as security guards at a security firm. The key requirement was a grade 10 certificate and a clean police record. 

He collected the certificates. Some were photocopies and others had been prepared by computer. That cut the list of applicants to 64. He gave them a test with several questions not to test aptitude but to check on attendance at high school. (1) What is a class patron? (2) In what month is the English Written Expression exam and (3) What are tectonic plates? and several more.

Many applicants had no idea. They should know that the exam is in August. Some said they had forgotten after graduating two years before. Tectonic plates is a topic in Social Studies from grade 7 to grade 10. If they cannot remember, they were never at high school. That cut the list of applicants to 23.

The big test was still waiting . Each remaining applicant was interviewed and asked questions about themselves. Holding their education certificates, the training officer asked each applicant a number of questions.

(1) What is your name? (2) Spell your name. (3) What was your school? (4) What subjects did you study? (5) What was the result for English and Mathematics? (6) Who was the Headmaster? Several applicants failed. This was not their certificate. Only 15 applicants got through to selection.

We have to realize that in all job applications certificates belonging to others will be used. The approach is to send the certificates to the Measurement Support Unit of the Department of Education but this takes time and does not prove that certificates belong to the rightful holders. This applies also to applicants to the PNGDF.

A quick approach like the police checking the license above, is to ask questions on the person the applicant claims to be. A driver's license has details a thief may not have bothered to memorize. So too educational certificates. People who misuse certificates may not have thought they have to memorize details to cover the possibility of being questioned on the information. 

It is sad that a security guard has to be of Grade 10 standard for standing at a gate like a log. But a false certificate involves a false name to be used with police checks to be in error on the wrong person. The applicant may be a local raskol.

SECURITY AT THE FACTORY. There was a story many years ago of security guards at the gate of a factory. They saw a worker go out through the gate every week pushing a wheelbarrow full of personal effects. They were sure he was stealing and searched the wheelbarrow each time. This went on for years. Many years later a former security guard met the man at a hotel and asked what he was stealing. The man said he was stealing wheelbarrows.

This has to be a silly story. If wheel barrows were being stolen, management would have advised the security at the gate to keep a watch. Factory wheel barrows would have to be painted in company colours with a number on the side. As well, the guards saw him go out in the afternoons. They never saw him come in each morning with the wheelbarrow. They only saw him go out. A silly story but useful to decide why it is silly.

THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS. At the end of World War 2, the British wanted to trick the Germans into believing that the D-Day invasion was further up the French coast and on a different date. So they found a dead body and put a trench coat on him with dark trousers and a briefcase chained to his wrist. They took him by submarine to the coast of France and pushed him into the water.

They had a letter to his girl friend in his wallet and a mess bill. They knew that the Germans would check. So they had a woman at the girl friend's address and a man at the phone at the officers' mess. Sure enough his body was found on the beach in France and passed to the Germans. They checked.

An agent rang the mess for Major So-and-so to be told he had checked out. The girl friend cried when an agent knocked at her door and told her of her friend's death.

The Germans were under pressure and accepted the dead body and the papers in his brief case. They started moving armaments north. The British knew the Germans had been tricked.

What do we learn from this? When the opposition stops checking, the tricking can start. The Germans knew they had to check and the British were waiting for them to send an agent to check. They could have checked more. When checking stops, the trick can win. It can be applied in many ways in this program.

BOMBING OF THE VILLAGE. In World War 2, the Germans knew there was a British spy in their headquarters. So they planned to trap the person. They sent out a signal about the ball bearing factory in the north of Norway. It was a fake message. They checked on who had access to the signal in the headquarters.
Sure enough a week later the British bombed the village and the fake factory. The Germans knew that the spy had passed the message on.

This is a checking procedure based on cause and effect. Let us press a button to see who reacts. It is another form of independent checking that will be followed up on this program.

DESTROY THE SUBMARINE. In World War 2, there was warfare against German submarines. On one occasion, a British destroyer made contact with a submarine and dropped depth charges. After half an hour, oil started to rise from the sea. The destroyer had been successful. The submarine was destroyed. But they were not to know that the submarine had oil in a torpedo tube and fired to give the false impression that it was oil from a destroyed submarine.

What should the captain of the destroyer do? Was oil independent evidence? No. But the destroyer was not to know that. The captain should have checked by underwater radar to identify destruction of a submarine. Radar would have been independent evidence. Not oil on the surface of the sea.

STEALING MONEY FROM  THE MESS.   Money being stolen from the officers' mess. Each night it  was counted  and money found to be missing in the morning. The police were notified and they set a trap of having the money coated with a dye after being put in the cash box. 

Dye would appear on hands when mixed with sweat. Sure enough in the morning, two mess  stewards had red dye on their hands.

This is again an example of checking by cause and effect. The cause was the dye. The effect was the dye on hands that could only belong to those stealing the money.

STOCK-TAKE OF MESSES. Why is it that all the messes on a military barracks are stock-taked at the same time on the same day and the same hour? There is the Officers' Mess, Sergeants' Mess and Soldiers' Mess.

If the messes were stock-taked on different days, the mess staff would be able to play tricks. They would move stock between the messes in time for the stock-take. One mess had lost 5 chairs and 12 cooking pots. These could be brought across from the Officers' Mess and taken back after the stock-take. The checking process would be totally inaccurate.

NUMBERS ON STOCK-TAKE SHEET. Why are the quantities of items not listed on the stock-take sheet. The reason is that the stock-take counters are supposed to count stock not just agree with what was on the sheet. There are 140 blankets on the stock sheet. That is correct. Did you count the blankets on the Q store shelves? No. It looks like 140 blankets.

This is a key scenario for checking. The responsibility for counting rests with the stock-take officer. He has to make sure the count is correct. This means that the stock-take counters must not be given the opportunity to play tricks. Accuracy must always be moving towards the person responsible not away from his control.

IS THE VEHICLE BOOKED? An officer had booked a vehicle with the transport section to take a group of officers to the airport. On the day before he phoned the transport NCO and asked " Corporal, is the vehicle booked for tomorrow at 7.00am. The NCO replied that it was. Next day, no vehicle arrived. When a check was made, the transport officer stated that the booking was made for the following day at 10am.

Who has made the error? It may be there was trickery going on at the transport section. But the officer had made an error in the question he asked. He had passed the responsibility for checking to the NCO. He should have asked " There is a vehicle booked for the Joint Training Wing for tomorrow. Is that true? Yes sir. For what time is it booked?  10am. Sorry that was for 7am. I will talk to the transport officer. Make sure it is at the Officers' mess at Yes sir.

SMUGGLING ACROSS THE BORDER. There were two countries linked by a common border and crossed by a main highway, the only road between the countries.  Both countries had customs officers at the border. 

There was concern at a late model luxury vehicle that used to cross into the country every week. They knew it was the same vehicle because it was the same make, model and colour -white. It had the same number plates. The customs officers would search the vehicle certain the driver was smuggling. Nothing was found.

Then the neighbouring customs advised their neighbour of a ring that was smuggling the same colour, model and make of white luxury vehicle. Suddenly the penny dropped. The drivers were smuggling vehicles.

What error was made? It was assumed that the same number plates on the same make, model and colour luxury vehicle made it the same vehicle. But each time, it was a different vehicle. It was time to start checking chassis and engine number of each vehicle before arrests were made.

But the big error was that they only saw the vehicle entering the country. It never crossed the border the other way. It had to be a different vehicle each time with the same number plates. The driver would leave the vehicle and return across the border in another way with the number plates. 

PLEASE EXCUSE MY DAUGHTER.  A teacher received a letter to excuse a girl from school. The teacher could see that the letter may have been written not by the mother but by the girl's school friend. He asked the girl who cried and said that the letter was from her mother. 

The next day, another letter arrived stating that the teacher should be ashamed of himself for questioning a mother. The teacher decided to drop the matter but keep the two letters on file for future reference.

Who made the error? Neither teacher nor girl made an error. The teacher questioned the author. The girl may have had a fake letter from her school friend. Was the second letter a double-check? No. It may have been a double-trick. It could not be a double check as the teacher was not in control of the letters. A letter writer from somewhere was in control.

PHANTOM NAMES ON THE PAY ROLL. Government organizations have phantom names on payroll with salaries paid into phantom bank accounts. The money is collected by various corrupt senior officers.

Who has made an error? It is difficult if those who could do the checking are the corrupt ones taking the phantom salaries. But surely Government Departments have employee lists in which someone in high places could cross check with the salary sheets.

REQUEST FOR COMPASSIONATE LEAVE. The adjutant receives a request for compassionate leave from a soldier to attend the funeral of his mother in the highlands. What does the adjutant do? Does he confirm the mother's death before granting leave. How does he do that? How does he prove to himself that the woman is the mother? Does he make a call on mobile phone? This may prove to be one situation that is uncheckable.

An adjutant needs to accept that deaths do occur and tricks for leave do occur. But it is all too difficult. The adjutant needs to consider that the problems of checking are greater than granting leave. Let it be. If the soldier wants leave every month, that is a problem.

THREE SCENARIOS - BEFORE, DURING, AFTER. Three checking scenarios are (1) Checking has to be done before a person is admitted to secure areas. (2) In response to a fire, a fire brigade checks during the process of going to the fire with sirens wailing and (3)  In a combat situation, the soldier gives the pass word and does not receive a response. He fires and checks after as to who the person is. This is a key format for the checking process.

BUILT IN CHECKS AND DOUBLE-CHECKS. There are checks and double-checks built into many administrative documents. We find vertical and horizontal totals in cash books and PNGDF ration returns. The shadow board in a workshop was a form of automatic checking. The tools were placed on a board against the shadows of the tools.

Doctors use checks and double-checks in diagnosis. Symptoms show that the patient has so-and-so disease. This can be double-checked by low blood pressure. A further double-check can be made on the level of albumen in the urine.

PERSONAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE CHECKS. It is in the interests of individuals and organizations to be aware of a need to check and double-check in security of money, stores and information, claims of advertisers, track record of contractors, claims of door-to-door salemen, letters of recommendation, educational certificates, certificates of trade competency, workers come to fix the telephone and herbalists claiming to cure HIV/AIDS.

It may not always be possible to draw a conclusion in early stages. It may be possible to do progressive checks. Contractors may be terminated in a month. So too a worker in a company put on a 3 month trial period.

OPERATIONAL CHECKING. It is not always possible for police and military to carry out thorough checks before responding to a public report. They could be in danger from a terrorist group or criminals seeking to divert them. The report of the bank robbery is fake and intended to lure the police to the other side of town to be ambushed or for a bank robbery at another location.

There was the report of American soldiers lured up a valley to be ambushed by insurgents falsely reporting a meeting of senior insurgents. Only option may be for police and military to respond to reports but to take operationally secure measures where possible.

Chapter 4 – Sequel to Problem Solving

I came back to Australia in 1978 pleased that I had achieved so much with the Programme in Problem Solving but at the same time, achieved so little.

There was not the opportunity to pass the course on to PNGDF officers. The Advanced Defence Training Wing was staffed by Australian and PNGDF infantry officers who were not in the least interested.

They thought that every problem could be solved by military tactics. How do we check an ID card by military tactics?

How can we discover theft in the mess accounts by military tactics? Well, we send the forward scouts ahead to reconnoitre the mess accounts. Then we send in a platoon of soldiers with smoke grenades.

Some infantry officers can be stupid people with gross tunnel vision. Too bad if they are in charge. One infantry objection was that this program taught officer cadets how to rip off the system. The alternative was to teach them nothing. Just give them 10 extra duties if they make errors as Duty Officer. Keep the blackfellas stupid.

But on return to Australia, I had the Programme in Problem Solving published in the Defence Force Journal. 

I shudder to read the report below. In those days I was trying to show a link between Education and Training. It all became unnecessarily complex. I see the whole process in much simpler terms today:

Captain Amoury Vane. 31 The Challenge to Management. Colonel John M. 
Hutcheson, MC. 34 A Programme in Problem Solving. Captain B. D. Copeland ...

But the final judges in this matter were the officer cadets, now senior officers of retirement age. There is nothing but praise for the skills that have never been forgotten in all those years. 

I valued the opinions and praise of past officer cadets including Brigadier Francis Agwi, Commodore Peter Ilau, Commander Murphy Kila and Colonel Joe Fabila. There is something magic in a course that is still remembered 38 years later.  That is like a World War 2 course still remembered in 1982 !!

Commander Kila says that my classes are all he remembers clearly from officer cadet training. Commodore Ilau says that I taught the first Time Management course he has ever experienced in country.

On return to Australia, I was posted from 1978 to 1992 as the lecturer in charge of the Pacific Languages Department of the then RAAF School of Languages. I was to teach Tok Pisin.

Here some 2000 defence officers, soldiers and wives came to learn language, culture, living in country and problems of training. 

In 1985, I was awarded the 10 Year Independence medal for services to PNGDF training. That was 7 years after leaving the country. Who put me up for that? I will never know.

My nick-name at Igam Barracks was Captain Double-check.


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