Red Team Reviews are used extensively within industry as a means of reviewing and stress testing proposals and bids. The Review acts a ‘critical friend’, by inviting a small team (often with little or no knowledge of the project) to engage in a stretching and challenging role-play exercise. The Red Team can be used to receive a proposal, make a proposal to you or to act as a counterparty in a dispute. This gives teams the opportunity to ‘stress-test’ their proposals and strategies before being in a live environment. The reviews do not replace the policy requirements or external reviews but instead offer extra assurances and testing of commercial decisions.
On Wednesday February 15th 2017 the Government Commercial Function piloted the first Red Team Review. Prior to the event, Gareth Rhys Williams the Government Chief Commercial Officer (GCCO) asked that Commercial Fast Streamers lead on the pilot, supported by senior commercial professionals.
A team of Fast Streamers from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) presented their procurement strategy with another team of Fast Streamers from the Department for Work and Pensions, Crown Commercial Services and Cabinet Office forming the Red Team. Senior colleagues from MOJ, Cabinet Office and Chris Hall, the Deputy Government Chief Commercial Officer, supported the teams to ensure that the right types of questions were asked. The Vice President of the International Association of Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM) was on hand to facilitate and to ensure that the pilot ran smoothly.
The session started with a presentation from the MOJ Fast Stream representatives. They shared background information, the procurement strategy itself and the benefit case for the strategy. During the presentation the presenting group welcomed questions from the Red Team reviewers and were able to respond to questions and defend the strategy very knowledgeably.
The presenting group then left the room and the Red Team went to work to formulate further questions to challenge the strategy. The mix of experience and knowledge in the room meant that the group were able to come up with questions and comments which will hopefully be used to fine tune the MOJ procurement strategy and inform on further areas for consideration.
The team from the MOJ then came back and heard the feedback from the Red Team and were able to ask their own questions of the group. The process highlighted a number of areas that could be fine-tuned to enhance the strategy and both the presenting group and the Red Team learnt a lot from participating in the review. It was clear that there is real value in asking for feedback from other Commercial colleagues outside of your Department who may have a similar experience but also can act as a fresh pair of eyes to your work.
Commenting on the role of the Critical Friend Helena Tyler said, “I found the role really interesting. It was fascinating learning more about the work that is taking place outside of the department that I am posted in. As the only first year fast streamer participating in the review I was slightly nervous that I wouldn’t be able to contribute much, but it showed me how much I have learnt in the 4 and a half months I have been on the fast stream. Having the opportunity to critically assess someone else’s procurement strategy with a group of other people with different backgrounds and experience levels was a great development opportunity. The process highlighted the key elements that need to be considered and I am confident that I am now better prepared to develop a robust procurement strategy than I was before I participated in the review.”