Red Team Your Business

Red Team Your BusinessFor those who don’t know, a red team is a group that plays the role of an adversary to provide security feedback from the perspective of an antagonist. While such an idea can be traced as far back as the “devil’s advocate” position created in the Middle Ages for canonizations of saints by the Roman Catholic Church, more modern applications have been seen by national security agencies post 9/11, and most recently, by companies looking to test their cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

So the security angle of a red team is obvious: have someone friendly to you try to find your weaknesses and then give you a report and recommendations afterwards. But there’s no reason to limit the red team concept to security only. Why not red team your business as a whole?

Challenge Assumptions

One of the challenges any business faces is the momentum of “we’ve always done it that way.” And, in some ways, that’s a good thing. If something works, there’s no need to be constantly messing with it. But on the other hands, technology and trends changes, pandemics happen, and while “we’ve always done it that way” has its merits, it can also be an excuse holding up necessary change. You can keep saying you’ve always done it that way as long as you add: “but we’re open to doing it better.”

A red team can help you challenge assumptions all across your business:

  • Products/Services: what are the best products/services we have and how could they be better? What are weaknesses that competitors are exploiting? Could our back office run better? How?
  • Workforce: what are similar businesses offering to their team members that we are not offering? What are the most important things for your team members in long-term retention? What would happen if my most important staff were to quit tomorrow?
  • Customers: Is the customer mix you have now what will carry the company into the future, or do you need to develop an entirely different customer base?
  • Industry: what are the larger trends in your industry and are you taking any of those on, or are you zagging the other way?

Remember that a red team is antagonistic. They aren’t looking to find out what’s good or right about your business. They are looking for what’s bad, what’s weak, and what can lead to a loss of market share or value.

Who Will Run the Red Team?

There are business coaches and consultants who have experience running red team analyses. If you can’t find one that you feel comfortable using for this exercise, consider putting together an internal team. The only drawback to an internal team is that they may find it difficult to think creatively, outside of the normal constraints of the company and the assumptions they are themselves trapped in, but as long as they treat it like the exercise that it is, stepping outside of their regular environment into one where there are no limiting beliefs, they can be effective as a red team as well.

Remember that like any exercise, you want clear KPIs. Examples, related to the questions we asked above, include:

  • What are aspects of our products and services that can be improved, and how much might those improvements cost?
  • How long would it take to replace the three most important employees at the company? And how much would it cost?
  • Which of our customers is most likely to leave us? Least likely? Why?
  • What are our competitors doing better and faster than we are?

Business owners don’t red team their businesses because they are afraid of something happening tomorrow or the day after. They do so because they have the long-term future (and value) of their business in mind and are willing to do the unusual and unexpected to keep their company and team operating at the highest level. A red team exercise is one of the more simple ways to do that.

Need some help coming up with a red team plan? We can help with that. Give us a call.