7 Keys to Building an Agile Staff Culture with Darrell Rigby


At Vanderbloemen, one of our values is “ever-increasing agility.” My team knows that our agility value is one of my favorites. We strive for agility to serve our clients and candidates with excellence in an ever-changing marketplace. I talked with Darrell Rigby, a Partner at Bain & Company’s Boston office who heads global innovation and agile practices. We discussed Doing Agile Right, the newest book he, alongside co-authors, Sarah Elk, and Steve Berez have released. Rigby has a love for innovation and is passionate about the ability to help a business grow. He firmly believes that agile is a better way of doing business and a better way of living life. Rigby goes into depth on the power of agility and the importance of implementing it the right way.

7 Keys to Implementing Agility

1. Evolution

In any organization, the natural inclination is to make the things that led to your success repeatable. The problem to this is when the environment changes, you cannot stick to what made you successful in the past, you must evolve for future success. You want to maintain the features that are working well but be open to change the things no longer working. There should always be a forward-looking “why” when you change a long-standing process or practice.

2. Controlled Environment

Agile practices have the power to transform work, but only when implemented correctly. The key is to practice agility in a controlled environment so if it doesn’t work, it can be tried without harm. Leaders typically think their responsibility is to predict, command, and control. This isn’t necessarily true, the role of a leader is to test, adapt, and coach. Leaders should be trying to bring up the next generation of leaders by helping their people grow.

3. Increase Variability

For the established, “we’ve never done it that way before” organization, find a way to increase variability. Do a controlled experiment as mentioned above so if it doesn’t work, you can stop it quickly, but if it works brilliantly, you can scale it. Constantly search for new ideas from your congregation members, other church organizations, businesses, etc. We have to establish ways to collect ideas and test those ideas in fairly risk-free ways.

4. Trust Others

You have to trust other people because you cannot do everything yourself. You should bring in talented, trustworthy employees that you set free to succeed so you can focus on other tasks. If you’re going to build an effective team, it’s important to bring on people who are different than you. A solid team is made up of individuals who bring complementary skills. We have a tendency to hire, mentor, and coach people who are like ourselves. The truth is, we don’t need more people like us, what we need is people who bring diverse opinions to the table, challenge our mindset, and complement our skills. 

5. Continuous Adaptation

Recently, we’ve had to be agile through the accelerator of COVID-19. How can we thrive in a word of accelerating and unpredictable change? We have to build a system that is capable of evolving and adapting naturally and continuously. While we are reinventing ways to be agile in a crisis, when it passes, will traditional ways ever be the same? It’s key is to build a system capable of continuous adaptation. We should always strive to be trying new methods and experimenting. Imagine and think of future scenarios as you experiment, so you’re relatively prepared to deal with future trends.

6. Learning Fast

Rigby isn’t fond of the common phrase “failing fast,” rather it’s all about learning fast. You try new things, learn, and adapt. We all make mistakes and have to face up to mistakes in order to learn and grow. We become better teachers when making our way through that process. Agility necessitates error as you try new things, so allow room for mistakes in your culture. Let your team know it’s okay for things not to work out, but the key is what you do with the knowledge gained through that experience.

7. Agile Mindset in Hiring

“It takes one to know one” could be applied when searching for hiring an agile employee. Having someone with an agile mindset interview candidates is a great tool because people are commonly drawn to others that are similar to them. Once you find these candidates comfortable with innovation, creativity, and agility, it’s important to mentor and coach them. It’s important to consider what environments best suit agility. Agility is not best for sectors dependant on consistency, reliability, or conformance to operating procedures. However, agility is great for new product development or finding new ways to customize experiences or products for customers.

Having an agile team can be powerful and may even be an essential transition in the time of a pandemic. However, agility isn’t perfected overnight and needs structure to work effectively. To learn more about reshaping the environment of your organization to strike the balance between innovation and control, check out Darrell Rigby’s book, Doing Agile Right on Amazon. “Agile isn’t a goal in itself; it’s a means to becoming a high-performance operation.”


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