The Power of Red Team Coaching

Red team coaching is the process of training and coaching a team of individuals to simulate an attack or exploit against an organization’s systems, infrastructure, and/or personnel. The goal of red team coaching is to improve the organisation’s security posture by identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses in its defenses.

Typically this has been previously implemented at the technology layer of an organisation. However, recent work has moved the thinking into different areas to help in response planning to situations where wrong decisions were to be taken, then results would and could be catastrophic. I will leave you to determine your own definition of catastrophic.

Such ‘business’ areas include business strategy, risk management, leadership development, and compliance. The ‘systems’ under test can be explored for worst-case scenarios and plans developed to combat this.

I would suggest that we have probably just experienced this in the response to the COVID pandemic by various national players. A doomsday scenario is played out by strategists with priorities and resources aligned to deliver the least worst-case scenario.

In a recent training by the ICF, we learn about a simple model. A sequence of questions that, when asked, can lead to breakthroughs from affecting situations.

These questions are

  1. What is the problem that you are wanting to resolve?
  2. Is it the correct problem?
  3. If you do this, what are you choosing not to do?
  4. If this plan is executed, what will your organisation look like?
  5. If this plan is executed, what will your key stakeholders look like?
  6. If this plan is executed, what will your operating environment look like?

As you can tell, these questions can be deeply soul-searching and instrumental to understanding a future plan.

Let’s turn our wye to business strategy design and the use of red team coaching techniques. We can explore these areas

  • Competitor Analysis: Red teaming can be used to simulate the actions of a competitor and identify weaknesses in a company’s business strategy. For example, a team of individuals could be tasked with identifying ways that a competitor could disrupt the company’s market position or take market share. This can help the company to develop more robust strategies and to avoid potential threats.
  • Scenario Planning: Red teaming can also be used to test a company’s business strategy in various scenarios. For example, a team of individuals could be tasked with simulating a range of scenarios, such as changes in market conditions, technological disruptions, or regulatory changes, and testing the company’s ability to adapt. This can help the company to identify potential blind spots and to develop more flexible strategies.
  • Risk Assessment: Red teaming can be used to identify and mitigate risks in a company’s business strategy. A team of individuals could be tasked with simulating various scenarios, such as a cyber attack or a natural disaster, and identifying potential vulnerabilities in the company’s strategy. This can help the company to develop more robust risk management processes and to avoid potential disruptions.
  • Innovation and Creativity: Red teaming can be used to stimulate innovation and creativity in a company’s business strategy. A team of individuals could be tasked with generating ideas for new products, services, or business models, and then testing these ideas against potential challenges and obstacles. This can help the company to develop more innovative and creative strategies and to stay ahead of competitors.

I remember when I was working in a large corporate company many years ago. We were going through an account management review, considering who the people were that we knew in an organisation and who we didn’t know – aligned with the strengths and risks of or to these relationships. The process highlighted gaps in our knowledge, but also enabled us to plan for the future. Whether this was in a bid (new business) or retention scenario – it formed a hugely useful backbone. My key takeout from this process on reflection was that this was not a critique of the people involved in the meeting, but more so an analysis of different outcomes and how we, as a player, could work with these different outcomes to a win-win scenario for our clients.

The power of red team coaching is therefore real and can deliver world-changing benefits. Sure, some of the conversations could be slightly uncomfortable and invites us to face our devils – but can also be totally liberating at the same time.

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