The Sheer Power of Agility

agile leadership andy murray big quest bigquest business framework corporation darrell rigby leadership blog professional development the quest Jan 24, 2021

How would your organization rate if it were measured not by how quickly innovative efforts can start, but how fast they can stop when it becomes obvious that it’s not adding value?

At the heart of an adaptive, flexible, innovative mindset is Agile leadership. 

In a recent episode of The bigQUEST Podcast, I had the pleasure of discussing multiple insights from the author and innovation leader Darrell Rigby. Darrell is a partner and director at Bain & Company in Boston, leading the firm’s Global Innovation and Agile practices. 

In the episode, he shares boots-on-the-ground insights for leaders who are ready to encourage innovation through an Agile mindset, all the while maintaining organizational efficiency and reliability. 

Here are a couple of those insights:

1. Agile enterprises begin with an Agile model. 

Darrell explains a key component to an Agile model, which is to test and learn and tweak your variables to find out what is (and what is not) working.

“The problem with humans and human organizations is that we're complex. And so you don't always know exactly what's going to happen when you turn the dial and it's not as easy to figure out. I know we all love attribution models that say, ‘Well, which thing really had the greatest impact?’ But in a complex system like an organization, you don't really know. You have to move a bunch of things and see what effects you get and test and learn and say, ‘Ooh, we turned that a little too far. Let's turn that back this way.’”

In a typical predict and command and control, bureaucratic organization, this isn’t happening. 

Use Agile approaches to become an Agile enterprise.


2. Use Agile teams in the right places with the right people.

Darrell cautions leaders on the temptation to dip just one toe in the Agile model. 

“I think the biggest danger is that people who are unfamiliar with Agile start off by saying, ‘Well, let's work on something that isn't altogether that important. And therefore, if it doesn't work, what's the big deal?’ And the problem is if you're working on something that doesn't really matter, then you're going to have a tough time getting some of the best people in the company to work on it because who wants to work on something that doesn't really matter?”

Dedicate a small team and give them autonomy to operate with Agility. 


Check out another bigQUEST podcast episode: Andy Murray on How To Fill In Today’s Leadership Gaps


3. Neuroscience is extraordinarily important for leaders getting the most out of a team. 

Darell explains the science behind the invigorating nature of Agile behaviors: 

“When we set a goal and we achieve it, our brains release dopamine. And when we're working very hard on something that we think is impactful, that gives us a greater purpose, our brains release serotonin. And when we're working hard and we're at risk of being fatigued, but we feel like we're accomplishing something good, our brains, our bodies release endorphins, and it overcomes exhaustion and it makes us feel good. And all of these things are things that good Agile leaders by nature do, and good Agile behaviors become addictive in the same way that a runners high becomes addictive.”

The power of Agile is so poignant that, in his book, Darrell writes: If you and your teams are not having fun with Agile, you're not doing Agile right. 


In another powerful leadership book, Alive at Work, author Daniel M. Cable explains there’s a seeking system built into our DNA —  a natural Quest for adventure, a longing to go and do something hard. 

It reminds me of the reaction I had when I first saw the commercial to the P90X, the commercial home-exercise regimen that was launched by Tony Horton in 2005. The commercial’s dialogue included statements like, “It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life!”

I thought to myself: This is the worst marketing ever! They're never going to get anybody to do that.

Hundreds of millions of dollars later, I was clearly mistaken. What the infomercial tapped into was the seeking system that was obviously understimulated in thousands of individuals

People want to do something meaningful. 

At the heart of these insights is a commitment to an adaptive method, mindset and motivation of leadership.  

Are you considering a bigQUEST? Our team has designed 5 Big Questions Checklist & 5-Part Video Series to get you started turning complex challenges into successful outcomes (it’s completely free). 

Once you’ve completed the checklist with your team, book a FREE 15-minute Guide Session. Here’s how:

  • Each week, I’m offering approximately twenty 15-minute sessions to hear your Quest and offer feedback. It’s first-come, first-serve, and subject to availability. 
  • Fill out the form and follow the instructions. 
  • Once approved, you’ll receive a calendar link with available times and further instructions to book your session with me. 

I can’t wait to meet you and hear about your bigQUEST and offer insight on how the Agile framework of bigQUEST will transform your leadership by creating buy-in and confidence in the face of massive variables. 

Have you started working through the 5 Big Questions Checklist & 5-Part Video Series? Leave a comment and share an “aha” moment you’ve encountered.