What is a TUNA environment?
The world is increasingly described as a TUNA environment – Turbulent, Uncertain, Novel, and Ambiguous. From Covid to geopolitical instability and supply chain fragility, organisations are facing unprecedented challenges. The increasing interconnectedness and complexity of global systems, as well as the growing impact of natural disasters, pandemics political instability, technological disruption, and changing consumer appetites increase the likelihood of significant challenges.
We may desire to return to normal post-Covid, but reading the tea leaves, there is still plenty to be wary of. Organisations need to be ready to respond.
- Turbulent- Refers to the fact that the business environment is unpredictable, with frequent changes and disruptions that make it difficult to plan for the future.
- Uncertainty- refers to the lack of clarity around what the future holds and the likelihood of unexpected events occurring.
- Novel- refers to the fact that the business environment is constantly evolving and new situations are arising that have not been seen before.
- Ambiguity– refers to the difficulty in understanding the meaning of certain situations, which can lead to confusion and indecision.
According to research from ILM- a City & Guilds Group Business which surveyed over 3,500 UK professionals, ¾ felt that leadership had been lacking during the pandemic with 36% stating the quality most lacking among leaders and managers during covid was empowering and motivating teams.
Traditional Leadership vs Agile Leadership
In such a dynamic environment, traditional leadership styles and organisational structures may no longer be effective. Traditional leadership styles often rely on rigid structures and processes that can make it difficult for organisations to respond quickly to changing conditions. They often prioritise stability and predictability over risk-taking, which can make it difficult for organisations to adapt to unexpected changes. Focus on vertical structures and hierarchical decision-making makes it difficult for organisations to collaborate across departments and respond to complex, interdependent challenges.
Agility, however, is crucial for survival. The ability to respond quickly and effectively to change is what sets successful organisations apart from those that struggle. This requires a different kind of leadership, one that encourages experimentation, learning, and adaptation.
Agile leadership is a mindset that values collaboration, adaptability, connective leadership, empowerment, and direction setting. In a TUNA environment, organisations must be able to cycle through the OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act – quickly and efficiently to stay ahead of the competition
OODA stands for observe, orient, decide and act. It’s a decision-making process that was first developed by military strategist John Boyd and is now used by businesses and organisations to respond quickly to changing conditions. To put it simply, the OODA loop is a cycle of four steps that we can use to make decisions quickly and effectively. Here’s how it works:
- Observe: We need to be aware of what’s happening around us, both internally and externally. This means paying attention to customer needs, market trends, and our own operations.
- Orient: We need to interpret the information we gather in the observation phase and make sense of it. This means understanding the implications of what we’ve observed and identifying potential opportunities and threats.
- Decide: We need to make a decision based on our observation and orientation. This means choosing a course of action that’s aligned with our goals and objectives.
- Act: We need to implement the decisions we’ve made. This means taking action quickly and effectively to respond to changing circumstances.
The research identified areas which had a lack of leadership with 33% across senior managers and 29% across middle management levels. 31% of organisations stated they had ‘no measures in place to identify leadership and management skills among staff’ and 27% do not offer leadership development opportunities.
This approach requires a shift away from traditional, hierarchical organisational structures toward more autonomous, cross-functional teams. These teams are better equipped to respond to change, make decisions quickly, and innovate in response to new challenges.
Moreover, agile leadership encourages a culture of learning from failures, recognising that mistakes and setbacks are opportunities for growth and improvement. It also values diversity and inclusivity, recognising that different perspectives and experiences can lead to better solutions and more innovation.
5 key behaviours for agile leaders
Agility in Mind, a consulting firm specialising in agile leadership, has identified five key behaviours necessary for organisations to thrive in a TUNA environment.
- Firstly, direction setting is critical. Organisations need to have a clear sense of mission and purpose in order to make informed decisions and prioritise actions. In a TUNA environment, where events are unpredictable and volatile, having a north star can guide decision-making and provide a sense of stability.
- Secondly, collaboration is essential. Organisations should create networks of highly autonomous, interdependent cross-functional teams. This allows for quicker decision-making, as teams can work together to solve problems and respond to changing circumstances. This also fosters a culture of innovation and continuous improvement, as teams are encouraged to experiment and learn from each other.
- Thirdly, adaptability is key. Organisations should proactively respond to and anticipate change, rather than reactively responding to it. This means being open to new ideas and approaches and having the flexibility to pivot when necessary. In a TUNA environment, the ability to pivot quickly can be the difference between success and failure.
- Fourthly, connective leadership is vital. Leaders should act as catalysts and conductors, facilitating connectivity and culture across the organisation. This means creating an environment where people feel comfortable sharing ideas and collaborating with one another. It also means fostering a culture of trust, where people feel empowered to take risks and try new things.
- Finally, empowerment is critical. Authority, decision-making, and autonomy should be focused on empowering colleagues to unleash their potential and entrepreneurial capability. This means giving people the resources and support they need to succeed and allowing them to take ownership of their work.
In conclusion, the TUNA environment demands a new approach to leadership and organisational structure. Agile leadership, with its focus on collaboration, adaptability, connective leadership, empowerment, and direction setting, is the key to success in such a dynamic and challenging environment. Organisations that embrace agility and innovation will be better equipped to navigate the uncertainties of the future and thrive in the face of constant change.
“Agile leadership training can help organisations become more adaptive, collaborative, innovative, customer-focused, efficient, and effective, which can lead to a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
*Research from ILM –City & Guilds Group