A red team is a group of people who help an organisation to think, plan and develop more effectively by providing views and challenges designed to oppose, frustrate and compete against the core team.
They are used to achieve a number of different outcomes but are predominantly about overcoming cultural bias and the temptation to over-simplify situations.
Outputs which Red Teams can be used to achieve
Identify and understand assumptions
When we make plans, we tend to think in a linear fashion, and make assumptions that our solution to a problem will work. By using a Red Team to look for and challenge these assumptions and preconceptions, a plan or a strategy can be developed into something more robust and resilient.
Expose complexity in order to deal with the detail
One aspect of the assumptions we make is over-simplification. When we make plans on a purely conceptual basis, it is easy to skim over detail. But the Red Team, whose job is to actively look for the gaps and oversights in the plan, is well placed to interrogate that detail, exposing those areas which simply need to have been thought through more carefully.
Providing Different Perspectives
One of the most powerful uses of Red Teaming is in the development of alternative viewpoints. This can be particularly effective when used as part of exercises which are designed to change attitudes and behaviours; having people role-play their competitors and critics is a remarkably rapid way to develop empathy. We have seen this used very effectively as part of a consent-building exercise, run to develop understanding for an unpopular but important change management programme.
Testing Resilience, Agility and Fitness for Purpose
Running out teams and their plans against a Red Team is a far more effective way to assure both than simply checking through the plan. By having a team whose job is to highlight risks and issues before a plan goes live, we can help organisations to really make sure their plan has the best chance of success, but also of making sure the plan is mature and robust enough to survive in a realistic scenario.
Identify the need for Contingency Plans
A part of improving resilience and understanding the detail is contingency. As the Red Team challenges the plan, so smaller plans can be spun up to be kept on the shelf, ready for when things go wrong.
Better understanding of weaknesses and vulnerabilities
By having somebody else actively trying to prevent your plan from succeeding, you can see where an opponent or competitor will seek to attack you; at the most extreme, this could even be a criminal antagonist; Red Teaming is a very common activity in the Cyber Security world. By sparring and gaming through adversarial and competitive activities, we can get a much better understanding of the vulnerabilities we need to consider and protect.
Protection against “Group-Think” and Confirmation Bias.
Finally, having a Red Team avoids the risk of a room full of people all thinking along the same lines and approaching things from the same viewpoint. By definition, having a Red Team provides some diversity of thought and makes a group of people responsible for asking the awkward questions and making sure that organisational optimism isn’t blind.
How we do it
As with so much of what we do, Red Teaming is a tool that we can use in a whole range of ways and in a variety of contexts.
Consultant Red Team
At one end of the spectrum, we can provide a team of experienced leaders and planners to provide a Red Team. The advantage of this approach is that we bring fresh eyes and none of the assumptions which may prevail in the home team, but the down side is that some of the nuanced detail might not be accessible to an external team of generalists within the right time frame.
Red Team Leadership
A really effective version of the consultancy service is to combine one of our leaders and analysts with a small team of subject-matter experts from your organisation. This approach combines fresh perspective with the detailed knowledge of the subject matter.
Majority Red Team
A particularly effective way of changing minds and developing empathy, this approach sees the bulk of the team given the roles of stakeholders, competitors, critics and even threat actors, against whom a small core team will exercise, reflecting the competing demands of the real world. In a game like this, most players will see their organisation not only from the outside but from a particular competing viewpoint; we know how to rapidly encourage these players to emotionally engage with their roles, which is an incredibly powerful way for them to better understand the environment in which they work. An effective After Action Review will ensure that this benefit is not only confirmed but is also shared with the wider team.
The Evocatus bespoke red teaming service
Everything we deliver at Evocatus is bespoke. While we have tools and methods that we fall back on again and again, the first thing we do is to really understand what it is the customer wants to achieve. In the case of red teaming, the game or strategy that we would use will depend on the types of plans that you wish to test and the amount of involvement you require from us as part of the red team.
At Evocatus, our focus is on using engagement through games to help businesses achieve their objectives, using our experience as leaders, decision makers, trainers and exercise designers. We are confident that we have the key skills to deliver truly transformational red teaming activities, but are equally confident that the best events will use the expertise of others, depending on the client’s needs. Our strong links to small businesses offering services as diverse as film-making and organisational psychology in the UK and beyond mean that we have a constant feed of new ideas, innovations and context to make sure we can deliver exactly what our clients are hoping for.
Where we operate
Our base at Hartham Park in Wiltshire is a perfect setting for team building games: Swindon, Bristol and Bath are all within very easy reach. Alternatively, we routinely travel to deliver exercises at an organisation’s own offices or at an entirely different location; this can be particularly effective when a corporate away-day or meeting incorporates team building scenario games. London and other major cities with good public transport networks provide an ideal place to run problem solving games; Swindon and other regional hubs tend to provide more options for getting out into the countryside or for using larger indoor spaces without breaking the budget.
If you are interested in using our Red Teaming Services for your organisation or company then please get in touch to discuss your requirements.