How red teaming works will depend on the strategy, plan, or program being analyzed. However, a formal red teaming analysis is divided into three phases: analytical, imaginative, and contrarian.
1. THE ANALYTICAL PHASE: QUESTIONING THE UNQUESTIONABLE
All plans are based on assumptions, and all assumptions are based on our understanding of the problem those plans are designed to address. Unfortunately, cognitive psychologists such as Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have proven that our understanding is always limited and often wrong.
Red teaming works by breaking a strategy or plan down into the assumptions it is based on, then challenging those assumptions to ensure that they are really correct and likely to remain so under all circumstances. As the U.S. Department of Defense explains, “It is this aspect of deliberate challenge that distinguishes red teaming from other management tools.”
To accomplish this, red teaming relies on an array of analytical tools including:
- KEY ASSUMPTIONS CHECK: A simple technique for evaluating the individual assumptions a plan or strategy is based on.
- PROBABILITY ANALYSIS: A more detailed tool that uses weighted anonymous feedback to identify the parts of a plan that are most at-risk for failure and which would have the greatest impact if they did fail.
- STRING OF PEARLS ANALYSIS: A comprehensive system for mapping out the assumptions, dependencies, and second- and third-order consequences of proposed strategy.
By challenging our assumptions and making them stronger, we make our plans stronger, too. And by making our plans stronger, we increase the likelihood that they will succeed — not just in a best-case scenario, but even if the future turns out differently than we had hoped.
2. THE IMAGINATIVE PHASE: THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE
Figuring out the different ways in which the future could unfold and understanding how those possibilities could impact a plan or strategy for better or worse is another aspect of red teaming analysis, one that is becoming increasingly important as the macroenvironment becomes more unpredictable.
Red teaming cannot predict the future, but it can help you plan for the range of possible futures. To do that, red teaming relies on imaginative techniques such as:
- ALTERNATIVE FUTURES ANALYSIS: A systematic way of exploring how a strategy might unfold if different variables have different values.
- BEING YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY: A role-playing approach akin to war-gaming designed to figure out how a competitor might respond to a proposed strategy.
- PRE-MORTEM ANALYSIS: A powerful tool for identifying the ways in which failure could occur.
Understanding the ways in which a plan could fail allows companies to adjust their strategies proactively to address any weaknesses before they become problems and develop contingencies to deal with events outside their control.
3. THE CONTRARIAN PHASE: CHALLENGING EVERYTHING
Sometimes, our fundamental understanding of the problem a strategy or plan is designed to address is wrong. Too often, alternative perspectives within an organization are suppressed by groupthink or the internal politics of the organization.
To make sure all perspectives are heard and all alternatives are carefully considered, red teaming relies on methods such as:
- LIBERATING STRUCTURES: An array of tools designed to surface different ideas and perspectives from within the organization.
- TEAM A/TEAM B ANALYSIS: A comprehensive approach for evaluating two different courses of action.
- DEVIL’S ADVOCACY: A powerful approach aimed at systematically challenging the prevailing view inside an organization, not necessarily to prove it wrong, but to make certain it is really right.
By employing these techniques, you can subject your own business to the same sort of scrutiny that a rival would, allowing you to find the holes in your strategy and plug them before competitors can, figure out ways to do what you do better before rivals do, and disrupt your own industry before a new entrant does.
We have helped companies and other organizations around the world do just that — and we can help you, too.