Friday, October 14, 2016

Logistics and the (Lost?) Art of Red Teaming


This article describes the various barriers that aid in the knowledge of effective red teaming within the joint logistics community. Authors Christopher Paparone and George Topic address issues that arise for this tool within senior management and leadership positions. Paparone and Topic define red teaming as “the process of critically examining and challenging the basic assumptions underpinning professional knowledge, planning, programming, ideas, or initiatives.”

Used within the fields of business and national security, red teaming provides organizations with the ability to use unconventional methods in order to tackle simple or complex problems. Within this article, Paparone and Topic ask “How often and how well does the U.S. defense logistics enterprise red teaming and its major efforts?” Running contrary to the concepts and designs of red teaming, the authors state that many institutions within the logistics community tend to rely on unchallenged thought processes and ideas. 

Paparone and Topic stated that group think is one major issue that red teaming attempts to mitigate as much as possible due to its negative influence on group members as a whole. Controlling and bypassing group think has at least three barriers that the authors discuss throughout this article.
The first barrier that Paparone and Topic address is hierarchy. While hierarchy does provide uniform and efficient organization within the military for instance, it also can require unquestioned compliance. This compliance can prevent a specific environment from developing and encountering innovative ideas.

The second barrier presents the idea that the team should be valued more than the ultimate decision made in any given situation. According to Paparone and Topic, respecting team members and their ideas signifies a willingness to be open to new ideas and criticism.

The third and final barrier offered in this article displays a theme of self-censoring which in this case, there is no desire to offer an alternative solution for fear that it will fail. With this in mind, the individual not only fears failure, but also the blame that comes with that from other teammates.

One solution that the authors present in the academic realm to counter hierarchy, group think, and fear of blame is the process of double-blind peer reviews. This process helps to protect criticism from being concealed under any of these three previously discussed barriers. The authors conclude this article by stating that one of the most important lessons to teach future leaders is the “importance of candid and critical assessments.”

Paparone, Christopher R., Topic Jr., George L. (2015). Logistics and the (lost?) art of red teaming. Army Sustainment, 47(2), 7-8.


  1. Charles,

    I can attest to the first hurdle of group think (hierarchy)being a real area of concern in the Army. As you stated in your write-up, it is often very difficult to influence one's bosses when they outrank you and have the ability to tell you off. This of course would be a direct reflection of their leadership styles and would ultimately harm that individual leader in the long run. I believe this is why the Army instituted something called "command climate surveys". These surveys are designed to allow subordinates to freely express their opinions of their leadership as a means for the leaders to make any adjustments deemed necessary. More often than not however, the subordinates use these surveys as an opportunity to complain about unrelated issues not dealing with unit leadership. So in theory I agree with the double blind peer reviews however they must be conducted in a certain way to get the desired results.

  2. Eric, thank you for your comment. I did not know about "command climate surveys" and how subordinates use those for different purposes than they were intended. What I am drawing from your comment is the fact that there is still a problem even though the military tried to fix it with the introduction of these previously stated surveys.

  3. Chad, what are some of the shortcomings you found in this study?

  4. Hank, within this study I found the three barriers to be the shortcomings. Examining hierarchy, team value, and self-censoring in this study displayed multiple problems with red teaming.