Measuring Adversity and Adaptation for Red Teams


In my last post, “Resilience for the Red Team,” I defined resilience using a simplified, two-part equation: Adversity + Adaptation = Resilience. Resilience is conditional; there must be adversity, and there must be adaptation.
           For red teams, this definition rightfully leads to two questions that we must ponder and answer. First, what metrics does the blue system use to measure adversity, and secondly, what metrics does the system use to measure adaptation, if any? How does the system we are red teaming measure adversity and adaptation, and what are the triggers and thresholds?
           We might consider, does the system measure adversity and adaptation like a “hedgehog,” in big ideas, core principles, and grand theories? Or is measurement more like a “fox,” several little ideas that are tolerant of complexity and uncertainty?

In “Reflections from a Red Team Leader” Susan Craig states,

If you execute without a method to track and measure the results, you’ll never know whether the action was successful. But finding the right metric that truly measures whether you’re on the right path is difficult. It is not necessarily up to the red team to develop such metrics, but it is up to them to identify poor measures of effectiveness and to think creatively about behaviors or indicators that could provide better feedback.1

           In understanding resilience, we must concede that subjective judgments are necessarily made. Specifically, two judgments are made, that is judging what adversity is and what adaptation is. These judgements may or may not be defined by the blue system, and they may or may not be measured. In general, it is the overall context of the macro system in which the blue system is embedded that defines adversity and adaptation. One thing you will hear over and over again in resilience work is, “context matters.”
           With this line of thinking, we might look to contextual clues about how an organization measures adversity and adaptation, if they are not already defined, and ultimately what resilience means to them. For example, the context of operations, politics, economics, demographics, relationships, information channels, technology, and local culture are likely to shape how the local organization measures and defines adversity and adaptation and these measures can then be juxtaposed against state and national systems for further clarity.
           This consideration of how an organizational system is measuring adversity and adaptation is important for red teams because, pending our strategy and tactics, we can exploit the measurements openly, or realize that objectives important to our overall strategy are not being measured and then use this to our advantage. We have all likely heard the management mantra, “what gets measured gets done.” This is a line that’s important to pay attention to within resilience frameworks. In either case, we can use the measurements or what’s not being measured in our red teaming efforts to ultimately provide more valuable feedback and assessment to our clients.
           For further reading on resilience constructs, here are three links that are worthy of your time for understanding current resilience-building initiatives:

Stay red,


  1. Military Review, March/April 2007, Vol. 87, Issue 2, p. 57. []

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