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The Problem With Red Teams is The Color Team Model

People have tried to overcome the limitations of the Red Team by inventing a host of other "Color Teams". A pre-writing strategy review might be called a "Pink Team." A formal draft review is typically called a "Red Team." Pricing reviews are "Green Teams." Final reviews are "Gold Teams." Some companies have Blue Teams, Purple Teams, and occasionally other colors. Color team labels mean so many things to different people that they have become meaningless. This is because the scope is not well defined for any of the color team labels:

  • Is the Pink Team review an outline review, win theme review, capture strategy review, storyboard review, production plan review, or all of the above? There is no formal mechanism to validate that what is shown at Pink Team actually makes it into the document (Pink Teams and Red Teams are almost always conducted independently).
  • Is there only one Green Team or do there need to be more than one pricing review? How do pricing reviews, technical solution development, and proposal text get reconciled? How does this reconciliation get validated?
  • There is no integration between Color Team reviews. They are conducted independently. Future reviews do not validate against prior reviews. They don't reinforce or add up to anything. Each review re-invents the wheel. Reviews often revisit difficult issues, contribute to indecision, and consequently make drastic last minute changes more likely. This is the exact opposite of what is needed.
  • What is the scope of the Gold Team review? Is it strictly a validation that the document has been produced and assembled accurately, or is it a final chance to change strategies and message? The endless conflict that erupts at this stage results directly from acceptance of the inadequate color team model.

What exactly is a "red team?" Ask 20 people and you'll get 20 answers (if not more). Then ask them what a "blue team" or a "pink team" is and you'll get even more varied answers. People have so many goals for their color teams that can't agree on which goals apply at any given time. The result is that most color teams do not achieve any goals. And while I am sure that you, gentle reader, know what a Red Team, Pink Team and a Blue Team are supposed to be, it doesn't do any good unless all of the stakeholders share a common set of expectations.

While it may be possible to narrowly define a set of reviews and give them color labels, you cannot implement this consistently or effectively across an organization:

  • You cannot take a poorly scoped review and make it better by having more of them.
  • If the Red Team review does not add value, then having more colors will not either.
  • The Color Team model is based on problem detection and not on helping to win or adding value.
  • When is the right time for a color? The Color Team model imposes sequential milestones on a process that is not sequential.
  • If experienced and trained reviews aren't available for the Red Team, how do you think you are going to get them for the other colors?
  • How does a color translate into a purpose driven act?
  • Reviews should focus on what needs to be validated, and not on the state of the document at a moment in time.
  • Most Color Teams practice leadership by default. The result is usually a lack of leadership. This means the review team is not accountable, directed, or trained.

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By Carl Dickson,
Founder of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY



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