‘Red Team’ strategy

An old new approach for post-pandemic boom

Image source: Shutterstock

Consider the following scenario. You are a military commander who wishes to demonstrate your team’s preparedness for enemy attacks. You divide the group into two teams: the red one and the blue one. The red team are the attackers, and the blue team is the defenders. Members of the red team attack and members of the blue team must defend their position in accordance with their skilled operating procedures. Red team members are free to use any ruse they can think of to accomplish their goal. They question the blue team’s usual assumptions and dare to take completely new actions in the future. During the exercise, the blue team is forced to revise an alternative situation analysis.

This is referred to as “red teaming,” a set of techniques and tactics aimed at identifying your “enemies’ way of thinking” as well as rethinking your own strengths. This method is widely used in military organizations, government agencies, and some businesses around the world.

Hackers are red teams. Hacking attacks act as system enquirers, resulting in decisions on how to improve the cyber-security system. In 2017, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) conducted a simulated attack on the utility grid of the United States. In collaboration with industry and government they wanted to determine how to improve responses in the event of a real attack [1]. While the test revealed no new or immediate vulnerabilities, NERC reports that in the worst-case scenario, some cities may be rendered uninhabitable. The test included approximately 10.000 participants and 350 utilities, and it simulated attacks on corporate and control systems, communication failures, and physical attacks such as bombings and shootings.

With “worst-case situation” inquiring, red teams encourage leaders to consider all options before jumping into decisions. Red teaming is an internal dialectic exercise.

Red teaming can improve organizations (not only security breaches)

Red teaming can be used in businesses to challenge the patterns, biases, and assumptions underlying their strategies. These procedures are implemented to assist senior leaders who must make critical decisions, as well as to assist organizations in fine-tuning their daily plans. When critical thinking is used in organizations, it forces alternative hypotheses and new outcomes. It is not difficult to red team your adversary. Red teaming your own organization, on the other hand, is a tricky business. People who are concerned with their daily assumptions and have firm convictions are unlikely to be challenged. They will not see themselves as a problem, let alone a contributor to it. Why should they be challenged? These tactics are frequently viewed as a form of supervisory therapy, resulting in immediate rejection and other post-rejection consequences due to a loss of trust. As a result, red teaming in organizations must be meticulously planned.

Critical thinking and rigorous debate invariably result in conflict, which must be re-oriented as a collaborative problem-solving exercise.

Red teams strategy in the post-pandemic boom

Situations of uncertainty, such as those encountered by red teams, help to highlight the organization’s strengths. For a long time, the current pandemic situation has created uncertainty. Lockdown and long-standing sales cuts have harmed businesses to different degrees. Some industries, such as tourism, are in a dire situation, with no light at the end of the tunnel yet. Some business intelligence executives struggle to imagine next year’s predictions. But in general companies have decided that last years’s decline caused by the pandemic will probably be short-lived.

A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions will rise by 1.5 giga tones to 33 giga tones in 2021, an increase of almost 5% [1]. This is a strong economic indicator that illustrates the effort economies are going do to get out of this recession.

Going down to consumer level, consumption is back but have changed. So the level of uncertainty is still there. Consumer behavior is a difficult topic to forecast and companies has to deal with it to plan the recovery. As said, companies are cautious regarding global trends and its changes. They want to be sure that business has genuinely recovered to implement a different strategy than successfully’s followed before. All them are waiting to post-pandemic boom,

Red teams can help to solve this issue. Meanwhile boards keeps its strategies, they can implement a read team strategy with the aim to measure the companies’s resilience to unexpected changes. Red teams can perform internal scenario planning by assuming that things could be different. This will led to various scenarios that has to be compared with the main assumptions to visualize company’s “resilience”. Red teams can quantify the impact caused by some changes to reinforce current strategies with more accurate responses to get ready for the post pandemic boom.

[1] “GridEx IV: Government and Industry Exercise Together to Improve the Response to Grid Security Emergencies”, Energy.gov, November 21, 2017. https://www.energy.gov/articles/gridex-iv-government-and-industry-exercise-together-improve-response-grid-security

[2] “Greenhouse-gas emissions are set to rise fast in 2021”. The economist. April 28, 2021. https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/04/20/greenhouse-gas-emissions-are-set-to-rise-fast-in-2021

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Javier Marin

Javier Marin

Chief Data Scientist | Democratizing data science