Sajid Javid’s Red Team

Military forces need to train as realistically as possible. In 1871 Helmuth von Moltke said  that no plan survives first contact with the enemy, so it is normal to fight in training against a force that is pretending to be the enemy. With the simulation being as real as possible short of causing real harm. This pretend enemy is known as the Red Force, presumably as our enemy was most likely to be Communist. In the USA they have whole aggressor squadrons of aircraft flown by top pilots who simulate enemy tactics and technology, as we saw in the film Top Gun.

The world of management has adopted this philosophy very successfully. Every major plan, every major strategic decision, is tested by a Red Team, who tear it apart with no mercy. This forces the management team putting the plans together to get it absolutely right and to make no mistakes whatsoever. And it means that any mistakes that are present are identified and corrected.

The British Government’s handling of Covid-19 has been abysmally mismanaged. This is because our politicians nearly all have liberal arts (hobby) degrees. They have no STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths, Medicine) training whatsoever. And the pandemic is all about science and statistics. So Boris and co were drowning in a swamp of incompetence. Of not being fit for purpose. They just rubber stamped what SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) told them. Often doing more harm than good. Because SAGE’s remit and personnel meant that SAGE were coming up with the wrong answers, which our Cabinet just didn’t understand. Something a Red Team would have exposed.

Sajid Javid (Secretary of State for Health and Social Care) has a BA in economics and politics, which doesn’t augur well. But he has real world experience, an 18 year City career that saw him become a board member of Deutsche Bank, on £3 million a year. So he has vast experience of the sharp end of management and will be very familiar with the use of Red Teams in decision making.

So it is good to see him in government actually using a Red Team to enable him to tear apart the questionable pronouncements of SAGE. He has released the photograph above which shows him in conference (and making notes) with:

  • Marc Lipsitch. Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard University and Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.
  • Ben Cowling. Chair Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong.
  • Maria Van Kerkhove. Infectious Disease Epidemiologist; COVID-19 Technical Lead , World Health Organisation Health Emergencies Programme.
  • Francois Balloux. Director of the University College London Genetics Institute, and professor of computational biology there.

That is a seriously formidable Red Team (though obviously there will be many armchair social media “experts” with far greater expertise). Which gives you some idea why Sajid Javid has been doing his job a whole lot better than his predecessor, Matt Hancock, did. Also it gives us all a great insight into how much better our government would be if it were more technocratic. If STEMM training took over from hobby degrees such as Classics.

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