Caleb George (Unsplash)

TUNA is not a fish

But what is it then? The acronym explaining wicked business environments, obviously.

This is not even a tuna. But that’s also not really what it’s about!

Ever wondered what TUNA stands for? Well, it’s definitely not the delicious fish that you eat in your weekly Sushi lunch breaks, as you could guess from my clumsy heading. No, TUNA is an acronym for a so called wicked business environment. So, what the heck is a wicked business environment and why should I care if it’s not about sushi? Let me explain you why.

In my last story, I’ve been talking about the necessity of integrating creation and implementation, in order to get new business initiatives in bigger organizations done. Especially when those initiatives are of strategic relevance to your organization and embed a certain level of innovation. Integrating creation and implementation is directly connected to a phenomenon Mannervik & Ramirez call TUNA environments. Business environments that are defined by a world full of complex and shadowy possibilities. Our world. The new world.

Wicked business environments are complex and shadowy.

So really now. What are TUNA environments? To the point: business environments characterized by Turbulence, Uncertainty, Novelty and Ambiguity. Still not getting it? Ok, me neither. So let’s dig a little deeper. TUNA environments are defined by an ever increasing speed of change in unstable market conditions (T), whether its unpredictability is resulting in indeterminism in the decision making process (U). On top, new technologies, new social values and new business models disrupt traditional organizations (N), while data and information might be contradictory and can be interpreted one way or the other, and rules might not exist yet and have yet to be defined (A). So what?

Planning is good. Doing is better.

In such a TUNA environment, even highly sophisticated planning processes fall short. It is not surprising then that Zook & Allen report that 90% of companies fail to implement their strategies effectively, even though most companies have detailed strategic plans of how to achieve their goals. So fact is, few organizations are ever able to implement their strategic plans. But don’t get me wrong, planning is still valuable. And damn, I needed to experience that myself when I should have better planned my girlfriend’s birthday. Did not go so well. But that’s another story. Back to the topic: if even highly sophisticated processes fail, where experts and consumers opinions, as well as accurately defined sets of statistical data can’t predict the future, we need to try out different modes.

Forecasting fails, as TUNA environments are unpredictable.

Predicting, or in other words, forecasting the future fails in TUNA environments, because TUNA environments are unpredictable. Modern top-down strategic planning processes don’t help companies to cope with the problems they face. Startups, on the other hand, thrive in this new reality. Why? Because startups have incorporated the motto “where I can’t predict the future, I can create the future.” Answers to strategic questions can’t be simply right or wrong, they can only be good or bad. And what is good or bad has to be tested out. That’s why organizations should translate their strategic plans into small actionable concepts, where assumptions can be tested out under the condition of limited resources. We call them quick wins. This is how organizations of the future can create and implement their strategies and survive in TUNA environments that are characterizing most of today’s business spaces.

Still not me, but Ben, one of your genius Business Designers.