How to be a Valuable Red Team Member and Drive Team Performance


Afterburner has what I refer to as a Red-Team Culture.

The week I joined Afterburner, the team began the launch of Afterburner’s webinar series and I had the opportunity to sit in on a dry run of the first webinar. I have been through a couple of webinar series launches and it’s standard to do a dry run with the participants, make sure all the technology works and that everyone is aligned. This, however, was a full dry run with about ten of Afterburner’s consultants and team members listening in. This level of investment and team performance, in both time and effort, surprised me.

After wrapping up the dry run, Thor, Afterburner’s President and the webinar presenter, asked for feedback. I piped in with a few thoughts of the ‘I think you could go into more detail here’ and ‘Why not leave this part out?’ variety. Thor said thank you and then called on the next person who started each of his feedback comments with the phrase, ‘Have you considered…?” So did the next person. And the next person. And the next. I realized right away that there was something going on: either a conspiracy to make me look horribly impolite compared to their gentle “have you considered’s” or Afterburner had a completely different team culture than I had experienced before.

Now I know that starting your feedback with “Have you considered” is a classic part of Afterburner’s Red Team standard operating procedure. I also now know that Afterburner team members consider Red Teaming part of our team DNA. It’s not about approvals or perfection; it’s about putting forth our best effort as a team. At Afterburner —

–  We Red Team anything and everything. (Even this blog post.)
–  Being asked to Red Team something for someone is an honor.
–  Red Teaming is about doing our best for each and every audience.

A great Red Team simulates first contact with your customer’s desires, your organization’s idiosyncrasies, and your competition’s will.

Why a Red Team?

Helmuth von Moltke of Prussia in the mid-1800’s said, roughly, no plan survives first contact with the independent will of the enemy. That’s why you have a Red Team. If you have participated in one of our planning workshops you know we always include a step where the Red Team comes in to poke holes in the plan, stress test it and add diverse perspectives that may have been missed. A great Red Team simulates first contact with your customer’s desires, your organization’s idiosyncrasies, and your competition’s will.

Thinking Like a Great Red Team Member

Your Red Team process can be informal, like my request for team members to Red Team this blog. Or Red Teaming can be a very formal process used to vet a strategic plan.

If you are honored to be part of a Red Team vetting a plan, especially a plan that is strategic to your organization’s success, here are some thought-provoking questions you can use to guide your “Have You Considered” feedback.- Are we moving with or ahead of change?

  • Does this build a competitive advantage?
  • How long will it take to be imitated by a large competitor? By a nimble competitor?
  • Does the plan consider challenging the status quo?
  • How does the strategy align with our business model? Does it result in a unique business model? Does it make the right trade-offs?
  • How does the plan contribute to building and sustaining change agility?
  • Does the plan anticipate a dynamic environment? What changes might happen in the marketplace?
  • Is the plan too cautious? Is the appetite for risk too low?
  • How well does the plan nullify a competitor’s advantage? Does it close the gap?
  • Is the plan customer focused? Does it meet their deepest desires?
  • Does the plan pursue a short-term goal over a long- term goal? Is that the right choice for this case, this industry or this product?
  • Does the plan include judgments on where to fight, what to target and/or what resources to apply? How will you know when these judgments are incorrect and need to be changed?
  • Does the plan include a way to experiment and test changing hypotheses?
  • Is the plan properly funded? Does it need more resources to succeed?
  • Does the plan rely on hope as a strategy? Does it include an expectation of ‘magic dust?’

Red Teaming Helps In Building High-Performance Teams

As Mike Tyson is famous for saying, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Great Red Teams help make sure your plan is the best it can be before that punch.


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