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Bain Book

Doing Agile Right

Doing Agile Right

Transformation Without Chaos

By Darrell Rigby, Sarah Elk, Steve Berez

Agile has the power to transform work - but only if it's implemented the right way.

For decades business leaders have been painfully aware of the huge chasm between their aspiration for a nimble, flexible enterprise and the reality of silos, sluggishness, and frustrated innovation. Today, agile is being hailed as the essential bridge across that chasm. Agile, say its enthusiasts, can transform your company, catapulting you to the head of the pack.

Not so fast. In this clear-eyed and indispensable book, Bain & Company thought leader and HBR author Darrell Rigby and colleagues Sarah Elk and Steve Berez provide a much-needed reality check. They dispel the myths and misconceptions that have accompanied agile's growth--the idea that it can reshape your organization all at once, for instance, or that it should be used in every function and for all types of work. They affirm and illustrate that agile teams can indeed transform the work environment, make people's jobs more rewarding, and turbocharge innovation--but only if the method is fully understood and implemented the right way.

The key, they argue, is balance. Every organization must optimize and tightly control some of its operations. At the same time, every organization must innovate. Agile, done well, frees and facilitates vigorous innovation without sacrificing the efficiency and reliability essential to traditional operations. Some of the topics covered in Doing Agile Right include:

  • How Agile Really Works
  • Scaling Agile
  • How Agile Do You Want to Be?
  • Agile Leadership
  • Agile Planning, Budgeting, and Reviewing
  • Agile Organization, Structures, and People Management
  • Agile Processes and Technology
  • Doing Agile Right

Agile isn't a goal in itself; it's a means to the end of a high-performance, innovative operation. Doing Agile Right is the must-have guide for any organization trying to make the transition--and for those already there, a way to avoid or recover from its potential pitfalls.

About the Authors

About the Authors


Darrell Rigby

Darrell Rigby is a partner based in our Boston office. He leads our Global Innovation and Agile practices and is the former head of our Global Retail practice.

Darrell joined Bain in 1978 and specializes in innovation and retail growth strategies. Over the past 42 years, he has worked with many of the world's most successful companies.

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Sarah Elk

Sarah Elk is a partner and the global leader of our Operating Model practice, as well as a core member of our Retail practice. She is based in Chicago. 

With more than 20 years of consulting experience, Sarah is passionate about transforming large companies, especially those experiencing technology or business model disruption. She has deep transformation experience at the intersection of organization, Agile, performance improvement, leadership and change management.

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Steve Berez

Steve Berez is a partner based in our Boston office. He is a founder of Bain’s Enterprise Technology practice and was most recently its Americas head. Steve is also a senior leader in our Agile and Healthcare practices.

Steve first joined Bain in 1980 and has been with the firm for a total of 28 years. Over the past decade, he has helped dozens of firms across industries and around the world improve the speed, agility, and effectiveness of their technology-based innovation.

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What Others Are Saying

What Others Are Saying

Doing Agile Right resists extremes and introduces a much-needed, balanced model. It marries innovation with the timeless principles of management to support enduring success.

John Donahoe, President and CEO, Nike


Nearly half of agile transformations fail, and many more fall short of expectations. For the thousands of companies pursuing agile transformation—as well as for agile practitioners—Doing Agile Right is a must-read that will put them on the path to results instead of the road to disappointment.

Jeff Sutherland, Co-Creator of Scrum and Creator of Scrum@Scale


Compelling and pragmatic, Doing Agile Right lays out a blueprint not just for weathering change but also for embracing it. This book describes how to apply agile values—customer obsession, focus, continuous improvement—to practical organizational systems like planning and budgeting, talent processes, and executive decision-making to embed agility into the organization’s DNA.

Christine A. Leahy, CEO, CDW


A hugely useful guidebook. It will arm leaders to be better change agents.

Simon Mulcahy, Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer, Salesforce


No matter where your company is on its journey to agile, Doing Agile Right serves as a useful guidebook for senior management teams. The authors bring decades of experience and perspective to demystifying an often misunderstood topic.

Ritch Allison, CEO, Domino's Pizza


Doing Agile Right lays out the steps organization-wide that allow traditional companies to perform software development like digital natives. CIOs and their business partners in the digital transformation journey will find this book an invaluable road map.

Michelle A. Routh, Chief Innovation Officer, CARE USA


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