U.S. Army Moves To Close Red Teaming University

Uncategorized Oct 30, 2020

The U.S. Army has decided to shutter the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies, a.k.a. “Red Teaming University,” ending one of the most revolutionary experiments in applied critical thinking and effectively pulling the plug on red teaming in the American military.

“Effective 1 October 2021, the Army will defund the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS) and repurpose our $2.5 million for other priorities. As a result, the Army, and the Department of Defense at large, will no longer possesses the ability to train and educate Red Teamers,” said the school’s director, Mark French, in a statement sent to me by UFMCS Friday. “At this stage, UFMCS leadership has exhausted the avenues for reconsideration.”

This cost-cutting move, necessitated in part by the Trump Administration’s absurd decision to steal money from the Pentagon to pay for a worthless wall on a tiny stretch of the...

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Why Do You Pay Your Consultants More Than Your Executives?

Uncategorized Oct 27, 2020

I recently asked a prospective client an important question: Why do you pay your consultants more than your executives?

If you are a senior leader at a large company, it’s a question you should be asking yourself, too.

The corporation in question paid millions of dollars last year to one of the Big Four consulting firms, ostensibly for “strategy development.”

“Yet, you have more than 300 employees who have the word strategy in their job title,” I pointed out. “How does that make sense? Have you hired the wrong people? Do they lack the right tools? Or do you not trust them to make the right strategic choices?”

I wasn’t trying to be a smartass. I really wanted to know – because I have seen the same thing at many of the large corporations I work with, and it baffles me.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t go to business school and have never been a corporate executive. I spent the first half of my professional...

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Use The COVID-19 Crisis To Make Your Business Better

Uncategorized May 19, 2020

It is easy at times like this for leaders to become paralyzed by fear, uncertainty and doubt. But great leaders know that crises such as the present pandemic present unique opportunities to rethink their businesses and figure out how to do what they do better.

Consider Boeing – not the Boeing of today, led ham-fistedly by the latest in a series of uninspiring GE alums whose only strategy seems to be using the coronavirus as a convenient excuse to get the American taxpayers to bail out a company that was already nosediving into bankruptcy before anyone started coughing in Wuhan, but the Boeing of 2001, whose commercial aircraft group was led by that exemplar of authentic leadership, Alan Mulally.

Boeing was in bad shape when Mulally was promoted to CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes back in 2001, even before terrorists turned four of its planes into flying bombs. It had been locked in a dogfight with Airbus for years. Mulally had managed to get the Europeans in his sights...

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Stop Lying To Yourself About The Coronavirus

Uncategorized Mar 25, 2020

This week, Apple Inc. became one of the first major corporations to issue a warning to investors about the negative impact of the coronavirus, demonstrating again the sort of transparency and responsiveness that has made it one of the most admired companies in the world. Meanwhile, the fact that so few other companies have followed Apple’s lead highlights one of the biggest challenges facing corporations today: telling the truth.

When I say companies have a hard time telling the truth, I don’t mean they are lying to their customers, to regulators or to investors; I mean they are lying to themselves.

While it is still too early just how big an impact the coronavirus will have on either the global economy or individual companies, it is already clear that it will not be negligible. Supply chains are already being disrupted. Consumer activity in China is already slowing. And Apple is not the only company that is going to feel the impact.


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The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Why Businesses Need Red Teaming

Uncategorized Mar 20, 2020

If you are a corporate leader anywhere in the world right now, I’m guessing you’ve dusted off your business continuity plan, read it and found it woefully wanting. That is because most of us, when planning for “worst case scenarios,” are unable to conceive of just how bad things could get.

Cognitive psychologists have a term for this: normalcy bias. And it’s just the sort of thing red teaming was designed to overcome.

As I describe in my book of the same name, decision support red teaming was born in the crucible of 9/11 when what was subsequently described as a systemic “failure of imagination” by U.S. intelligence agencies opened the door for the worst terrorist attack in American history.

The CIA was one of the agencies that dropped the ball. But not for long.

As they were still pulling victims out of the ruins of the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet was setting up a group within the...

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Slow Down to Speed Up

Uncategorized Feb 20, 2020

And spend now to save later.

Doing this will invariably go against every grain in your body, but if you’re going through a transformation you’re going to have to unlearn those behaviours and feelings and do what’s right but what feels wrong. 

If you need to go faster (or are told to do so), then if you simply do your best, try harder, work more hours and add more story points to your sprint (because that always works!), then you will actually go slower – this is proven. Other bad things are also likely to occur… ‘Cliff Approaching!’ springs to mind. 

If your business is trying to do something that is really complex and difficult, and which brings about major change for most of its people, which any transformation will do, then you need to support them, and you need to do it right.  Your people are your No. 1 asset. 

It is better to invest now, surge the support upfront, plan effectively, and get the results you need in a...

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2020 Demands New Ways Of Thinking About Your Business

Uncategorized Feb 04, 2020

The new year is off to a crazy start. It took less than a week for us to reach the brink of yet another Mideast war, and now we’ve got impeachment hearings in the United States, Brexit in the United Kingdom and a potential pandemic brewing in China. On the business front, Boeing continues to self-destruct, Tesla has passed Volkswagen to become the world’s second most valuable automaker and Jeff Bezos is accusing the crown prince of Saudi Arabia of hacking his cell phone. And we’ve only made it through January.

One thing is certain: It looks like we’re all in for a wild ride in 2020.

I guess we should be used to it by now. Afterall, 2019 was no walk in the park either. But it does seem like every year now brings with it a new level of crazy.

Business thinkers are increasingly using the term VUCA to refer to this new normal, an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. In other words: the environment we all...

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Are you a ‘Social Gadfly’?

Uncategorized Jan 23, 2020

When I was a young junior officer in the Royal Air Force, I was once called a ‘social gadfly’ by an old boss of mine. I wasn’t sure what he meant at the time and, as we didn’t have instant access to the internet (yes, it was that long ago!), I just assumed it meant something along the lines of a social butterfly. This was a fair assumption given the total of my mess bar bill each month and the occasional high jinks I found myself involved in…but never assume, right?! 

At my next performance review this gadfly word arose again. Whilst it turned out I was indeed a social butterfly (a point also raised in my performance review!), my boss said that, as a gadfly, I was a contrarian thinker and had challenged him and our ways of working a lot in my first few months on the squadron. Here we go, I thought, he’s already identified me as a young drunk with a rebellious streak. My long-planned military career was about to become very short-lived....

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Boeing’s Emails Show The Company Has The Answers – Calhoun Just Needs To Listen

Uncategorized Jan 17, 2020

While the internal Boeing Co. emails released last week paint a disturbing picture of a toxic corporate culture and a manufacturer that has lost its way, they also reveal something the company’s new CEO should take some solace in: Boeing’s employees know what is wrong with the aerospace giant, and I think it’s a safe bet they know how to fix it, too.

The only question is whether David Calhoun will let them.

When I started covering Ford Motor Co. as a journalist for The Detroit News back in 2005, the automaker leaked like sieve. Ford employees regularly forwarded me everything from product plans for new pickups to financial forecasts intended for the board’s eyes only.

One day, after I’d published a story revealing Jaguar’s staggering losses and the equally grim projections for the brand’s future, Bill Ford called me to complain. He asked me who had provided me with those privileged documents, suggesting several names to see if...

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In 2020, Resolve To Ask “Why?”

Uncategorized Jan 10, 2020

Back in the 1980s, a German theoretical psychologist named Dietrich Dörner conducted a fascinating series of experiments that offered amazing insights into the differences between good decision makers and bad ones.

He and his team used computers to create simulations of complex, interconnected systems ranging from small towns to African countries. Each of these systems was beset with a host of problems that threatened their very survival – everything from high infant mortality rates and drought to underperforming schools and stagnant industries. Then Dörner gave his research subjects dictatorial powers over those systems and challenged them so solve their underlying problems. It was like an early version of SimCity, albeit much darker and more complex.

Over the course of these experiments, Dörner discovered that bad decision makers shared several common traits. They focused on one aspect of the problem, rather than thinking complexly about all of the...

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