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Technical report | A Simple Handbook for Non-Traditional Red Teaming


 This report represents a guide for those wishing to apply red teaming methods in a structured manner, and provides lessons developed in both the military and national security environments. It describes the practice of red teaming in the context of biases and heuristics followed by techniques and activity designs allowing others to design and apply red teaming activities across a range of domains.

Executive Summary

This report describes the application of red teaming as a methodology in a broader, less traditional sense. It is designed to enable people to employ a more analytical approach to their problem analysis or evaluations, and to tailor the scale and complexity of red teaming activities to meet their specific needs.

It provides a cognitive bias and heuristics context to further the reader’s understanding of how red teaming is intended to mitigate these issues, as well as how structured analytical techniques can help manage these issues within red teaming itself. While the methodologies discussed are drawn from a variety of disciplines (e.g. operations analysis, operations research, human sciences, and systems engineering to name just a few), they are often complementary in terms of the outcomes they support when applied to the appropriate problems.

Four critical aspects of successful red teaming are identified, and include: providing clarity about what is being tested, defining appropriate objectives for the test activity, carefully deciding how to best conduct the activity to obtain meaningful outcomes, and working within the resources available to achieve the optimal outcome. By keeping these four aspects in mind during the planning and decision processes, the appropriate method(s) for the activity can be selected. As with any exercise that aims to evaluate or analyse performance, validity or other aspects of plans, processes, actions, other analyses or reports (particularly those looking to be predictive in nature), the quality of the outcomes are determined by the quality of the decision making and preparation that went into planning the activity.

This report provides simple initial guidance regarding the development and conduct of red teaming activities by enabling an understanding of the broader utility of red teaming: what it is useful for, and how it can be applied in a variety of contexts (both within and outside of Defence). With the outline of various cognitive biases (the effects of which red teaming is designed to help combat) and a variety of bias mitigation strategies provided, it enables activity planning with a base knowledge of the underlying value of a red teaming approach. Further, with the outline of the various activity types that fall under the red teaming umbrella, as well as the additional activity and method descriptions, readers can then identify the necessity for a red teaming approach and the type of methods that would best suit the purpose of their activity. Once red teaming has been selected as the required basis for the activity, some guidance and lessons based on learning from previously conducted red teaming activities in both the military and civilian domains has been provided, and should assist with the design of the activity itself, particularly in terms of personnel selection.

Finishing with a brief examination of training issues, and several links to a variety of red team training providers, this report will serves as a simple enabler for individuals wishing to explore the applicability of red teaming approaches to address their challenges.

Key information


Monique Kardos and Patricia Dexter

Publication number


Publication type

Technical report

Publish Date

January 2017


Unclassified - public release


Red Teaming, critical analysis, contestability, bias, heuristic