Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 24, Issue 8;   February 21, 2024: Red Team Reviews of Uphill Briefings

Red Team Reviews of Uphill Briefings

by

In preparing for uphill briefings, briefers can benefit from preliminary reviews. When we review the briefing early in development, the briefing team can address vulnerabilities and exploit opportunities. A Red Team review is one style of preliminary review.
The results of a crash test

The results of a crash test. We conduct these tests under controlled conditions to enable engineers and designers to identify vulnerabilities and opportunities for improvement. A Red Team review of a briefing serves an analogous purpose.

A Red Team review of a work product is a review conducted by a team of knowledgeable individuals who simulate the behavior of the "customer" — the ultimate recipients of the work. This simulation gives the authors of the work product, often referred to as the Blue Team, a chance to practice the kind of interactions they will eventually have with the Customer. By prior arrangement, the Red Team focuses on specific attributes of the work product, though the members of the Blue Team might not be aware of the details of this arrangement.

Red Team reviews were originally developed for the fields of defense analysis and intelligence analysis. In the military and intelligence contexts, the work products in question are intended to address issues that arise in adversarial exchanges, such as military engagements, espionage, terrorism defense, and cybersecurity. Red teaming works well in such applications because the Red Team itself can act as a simulated adversary — often referred to as the "enemy" — even when the interaction with the Blue Team is conducted as a "table-top" exercise.

Red Team reviews can be helpful tools well beyond the set of contexts related to military engagements. [TraDoc 2018] For example, red teaming has found application in cybersecurity [Cyderes 2020], proposal authorship [Singh 2022], and public relations [Bashir 2021].

A Red Team review of an uphill briefing can cover both the content and delivery of the briefing. In practice, the Red Team plays the role of the Customer. They receive briefing materials in advance of the simulated briefing just as the Customer would in the actual briefing. They act as audience as the Blue Team delivers the briefing. They might comment and ask questions during the briefing. Following the briefing they convene to write a report evaluating the briefing materials, the Blue Team's delivery during the briefing, and the briefing as a whole.

Structure of the review

The objectivity The objectivity of the members of
the Red Team is protected because
they played no roles or minimal roles
in development of the work product
of the members of the Red Team is protected because they played no roles or minimal roles in development of the work product. Because the review occurs before delivery, the result of the review can guide corrective actions to improve the product and its delivery.

But briefings are not military engagements. In briefings there is no enemy or adversary. There are no attacks or counter-attacks. But there is a simulated customer, played by the Red Team. In a Red Team review of an uphill briefing, skeptical and assertive questioning replaces the attacks and counter-attacks of military engagements and espionage.

The structure of a Red Team review of an uphill briefing is straightforward. The Blue Team presents its briefing to the Red Team, which plays the role of the senior managers who will eventually receive the briefing. The Red Team will have been charged with examining particular aspects of the briefing, such as elements of the content, or delivery style. Typically, during the review, the Red Team tries to emulate the anticipated behavior of the actual Customer. In this way, the Red Team can explore the effectiveness of the Blue Team as it responds to the Red Team's simulation.

Following the simulated briefing, the Red Team compiles an evaluation of both the content of the briefing and the Blue Team's performance. The evaluation addresses the objectives previously agreed upon, and any other results deemed significant. Red and Blue can then discuss the evaluation together.

A weakness of Red Team reviews

It is the ability of red teaming to simulate adversarial contexts that makes it a useful tool for briefers who represent their teams in review contexts. By conducting a Red Team review of the briefing before delivering it to executives, the team can identify vulnerabilities in its message in advance of the actual delivery.

But Red Team reviews have a significant weakness. Although they can reveal vulnerabilities and missed opportunities in the work product and its delivery, Red Team reviews reveal little about what they might have missed. That is, beyond the vulnerabilities and missed opportunities that a Red Team review does reveal, there could be additional vulnerabilities and missed opportunities even more significant than those discovered.

Last words

One other risk associated with Red Team reviews of uphill briefings is that they can cause lasting harm. The members of the Red Team are tasked with playing the role of senior managers. Some zealous role-players might behave in ways that damage their relationships with members of the Blue Team, with consequences that persist long after the simulation comes to a close.

Two risk mitigation measures are recommended. The first and most important is adoption of behavioral norms that protect against such mishaps. Some training will be required so that all participants understand the norms and their importance. Second, and optionally, one participant can be designated as a facilitator. The primary responsibility of the facilitator is calling a temporary halt to the simulation if one or more of the norms are violated. With those two measures in place, a Red Team review of an uphill briefing can be safe and productive. Go to top Top  Next issue: Checklists: Conventional or Auditable  Next Issue

101 Tips for Effective MeetingsDo you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!

Footnotes

Comprehensive list of all citations from all editions of Point Lookout
[TraDoc 2018]
U.S. Army, Training and Doctrine Command, "The red team handbook: The Army's guide to making better decisions (Version 9.0)," Training and Doctrine Command G-2 Operational Environment Enterprise (2018). Available here. Retrieved 4 February 2024. Back
[Cyderes 2020]
Cyderes. "Understand Pentesting vs. Red Teaming," Cyderes blog, December 14, 2020. Available here. Retrieved 4 February 2024. Back
[Singh 2022]
Sunny Singh. "How to Conduct a Red Team Review: Three Things You Need to Know," Key Solutions, Inc., blog, February 10, 2022. Available here. Retrieved 4 February 2024. Back
[Bashir 2021]
Adnan Bashir. "To Improve Crisis-Response Plans, Bring in a Red Team," PRSay blog, June 7, 2021. Available here. Retrieved 4 February 2024. Back

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrendPtoGuFOkTSMQOzxner@ChacEgGqaylUnkmwIkkwoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

This article in its entirety was written by a 
          human being. No machine intelligence was involved in any way.Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

This article in its entirety was written by a human being. No machine intelligence was involved in any way.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

"Taking an observation at the pole."Risk Management Risk: II
Risk Management Risk is the risk that a particular risk management plan is deficient. Here are some guidelines for reducing risk management risk arising from risk interactions and change.
A 1928 Ford Model A Business CoupeClueless on the Concept
When a team member seems not to understand something basic and important, setting him or her straight risks embarrassment and humiliation. It's even worse when the person attempting the "straightening" is wrong, too. How can we deal with people we believe are clueless on the concept?
A map of the Internet ca. January 2005Intentionally Unintentional Learning
Intentional learning is learning we undertake by choice, usually with specific goals. When we're open to learning not only from those goals, but also from whatever we happen upon, what we learn can have far greater impact.
A clockThe Artful Shirker
Most people who shirk work are fairly obvious about it, but some are so artful that the people around them don't realize what's happening. Here are a few of the more sophisticated shirking techniques.
A forest pathThe Goal Is Not the Path
Sometimes, when reaching a goal is more difficult than we thought at first, instead of searching for another way to get there, we adjust the goal. There are alternatives.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Effective Meetings for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A well-festooned utility poleComing June 26: Additive bias…or Not: I
When we alter existing systems to enhance them, we tend to favor adding components even when subtracting might be better. This effect has been attributed to a cognitive bias known as additive bias. But other forces more important might be afoot. Available here and by RSS on June 26.
A close-up view of a chipseal road surfaceAnd on July 3: Additive bias…Not: II
Additive bias is a cognitive bias that many believe contributes to bloat of commercial products. When we change products to make them more capable, additive bias might not play a role, because economic considerations sometimes favor additive approaches. Available here and by RSS on July 3.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrendPtoGuFOkTSMQOzxner@ChacEgGqaylUnkmwIkkwoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at X, or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.