The Value of Red Teaming + Foresight

Using foresight and outside perspectives to improve your strategy

Red teaming is the process of challenging strategy or project plans using an outside group. That group can be a group inside your organisation that is not part of the normal strategy or project planning process, or you can bring in an external team. The first basic premise is that an outside group can see things that you cannot see because of the assumptions or blind spots that everyone has. The second basic premise is that a planning or project team can become so invested in an idea that they have developed that they cannot bear to see it significantly altered.

I have run a number of red team challenge sessions bringing outside teams into the process and even as an outsider myself and a facilitator of the process I have never walked away from one of those session without thinking “you know, I never would have thought about that”.

The origin of the term dates back to wargaming exercise by the Prussian military and because the Prussian uniform was predominantly blue the opposing forces were given red uniforms. So the process of red teaming can refer to actual practical wargaming or cybersecurity exercises or pure desktop and review exercises.

There has been an upswing in the use of red team systems in military circles since 9/11 and the second gulf war, with the US military and the British military in particular using red team processes to test their strategies.

Red team processes need a combination of experienced people in a range of areas that are contextual to the organisation and the industry in question. This can include manufacturing, marketing, social media, logistics, strategy and change management to name just a few.

On top of these execution skills it is important to think deeply about the future landscape and what that might mean to the plan that is being examined.

We use a combination of foresight based OODA loops and Wardley mapping to look at future landscapes and scenarios in red teaming exercises. OODA loops were developed by Colonel Tom Boyd of the US air force. In simple terms the OODA acronym stands for:

  • Observe the landscape/battlefield.
  • Orientate yourself to the landscape/battlefield
  • Decide what to do
  • Act

The theory is that if you can move around that cycle faster than your enemy or competitor then you can keep them off balance.

From a foresight perspective we modify the OODA loop process to:

  • Observe multiple possible future landscapes.
  • Orientate yourself to a landscape once it becomes clear that it is the one emerging from the possibilities.
  • Decide what to do and more critically when to do it (the Goldilocks moment).
  • Act at the appropriate time after reviewing your previously determined strategy.

We use Wardley mapping and scenario planning to observe the possible landscapes.

Adding strong foresight approaches to deep expertise and experience in the practical execution of plans and projects creates a very powerful red teaming approach.

If you would like to talk to us about an approach for your organisation then please contact us.

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