THE KRILL PARADOX: The Interplay Of Culture And Value In Business Agility - XploreAgile

THE KRILL PARADOX: The interplay of culture and value in Business Agility

A Swarm of Krill

Sitting in the lounge eating popcorn on a Father-son, bonding day watching Happy Feet 2, when my 8-year-old Daniel, after seeing the exploits of Bill the Krill in the film,  asked me Dad, what’s a Krill? No idea, I replied; Daniel being Daniel and not satisfied with my nonchalant response, suggested we look it up on the font of all Knowledge ‘Google’. So we put the film watching on hold and indulged in a short but intense research session to learn more about the Krill. Some thirty mins later, once Daniel’s thirst for knowledge was satisfied, we resumed watching Happy Feet 2.

Later that evening, I was reflecting on the interactive dependency that exists in Krill’s and its predators, in this case, the whale. Interestingly, I noted parallels between this association and the way assumptions about change management are made in modern organizations’ change approaches, especially pertaining to Business Agility, where there is a need to totally remove certain forms of process or service in order to streamline or improve. During my research, I stumbled on the ‘Krill Paradox’, which I decided to share.


Understanding the Krill Paradox

The Krill Paradox is a powerful concept that emphasizes the importance of each individual unit within a larger ecosystem. In the natural world, krill, while seemingly insignificant individually, support the entire aquatic food chain, making them crucial for the ecosystem’s survival. Applying this concept to business Agility, each member, including processes or practices, no matter how small their role may seem, contributes to the overall success or stagnation of the organization.


Although culture is frowned upon in many conversations and misunderstood sometimes by quoting out of context, ‘Culture eats Strategy for breakfast’.  Culture itself forms the backbone of any organization. It’s the invisible glue that holds the organization together, defining its identity, values, and behaviours. Without a strong culture, an organization would lose its cohesion and its unique competitive edge.


The Krill Paradox and its Implication to Businesses

Much like an ecosystem, abruptly removing or replacing elements of an organisation’s culture can have disastrous consequences. An aggressive, direct attack on an organization’s culture can, in fact, jeopardize the entire organization. While certain elements of culture can and should evolve over time, any radical changes should be approached with extreme caution. I like to think that Culture needs to be infected rather than revolutionary changed.


In the world of Agility and the race for Business Agility in particular, there’s a pervasive notion that quick success can be achieved through the immediate replacement of existing processes, systems, or even culture. However, this replacement theory overlooks the fact that true success is a long-term game. It’s not about instantaneous results, but rather sustainable growth and improvement. It’s more about creating a valuable organisation than a value-focused organisation. It’s not a race it’s a marathon.


Importance of Value in Delivering Value

Being valuable is a prerequisite for delivering value. This means that an organization needs to recognize and harness the unique abilities and contributions of each individual member. This allows each member to deliver their best, thereby maximizing the collective output of the organization.


Agility in business is not just about quick movements or adjustments. It’s about the mindset behind these actions. An agile mindset focuses on learning, adapting, and thriving amidst change. To do this, we must appreciate that as much as we desire change, we are changed by our desires and taking stock of our current realities and experimenting with them is critical to an organisation’s strive for better change control. This mindset is crucial for an organization to stay competitive in an ever-evolving business landscape.


The Consequence of Speed of Value in Change Management

When we rush towards achieving value, there’s a tendency to consume skills at an accelerated pace. This can result in team members burning out or skills being underutilized due to a lack of time for them to mature and flourish fully.


As a consequence of this rapid speed of value, innovation can suffer. Innovation requires time, patience, and a nurturing environment to evolve. When we push too hard and too fast for results, there’s less room for creativity, exploration, and innovation.


Real-World Examples of the Krill Paradox in Businesses

A classic example of a successful application of the Krill Paradox is Google. Google encourages a culture of innovation and creativity where every employee’s ideas are valued. This inclusive culture has led to ground-breaking innovations, demonstrating the power of valuing each individual’s contributions.

Looking at the other side of the coin, businesses that overlooked the importance of their organizational culture and rushed towards quick success often faced serious consequences. An example is Kodak, which was slow to adapt to the digital revolution and clung to its existing culture and business model. Despite its previous success, Kodak [Demise] ultimately filed for bankruptcy in 2012.


Managing the Krill Paradox for Business Success

Just as a healthy ecosystem requires balance, so does a successful business. Maintaining a strong, adaptive organizational culture is crucial. While change is inevitable and necessary, it should be managed carefully to preserve the core values and spirit of the organization.

Transformation should not be about completely replacing the old with the new. Instead, it should be about integrating the new with the existing, ensuring that changes align with the organization’s core values. Regular feedback, open collaboration, and ongoing support are key elements of successful transformation.

In closing, understanding the Krill Paradox provides valuable insights for businesses seeking to thrive in today’s complex environment. It reminds us of the importance of each individual’s contribution and the integral role of culture in an organization’s success. While change is necessary, it should be managed in a way that supports sustainable growth and nurtures the unique value each team member brings



Image courtesy of Peter Johnson/Getty Images

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Sushant Sharma
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Sushant Sharma

Over the last three months, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with David and test his Situational courses. It has been an exceptional experience with numerous practical lessons and enjoyable discussions. I strongly endorse his training techniques and the courses he provides.

Sushant Sharma

Sushant Sharma

Senior Manager

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