Lancefield on the Line

Prof. Rita McGrath: Getting out to the edges to develop strategy

October 20, 2021 David Lancefield Season 1 Episode 4
Lancefield on the Line
Prof. Rita McGrath: Getting out to the edges to develop strategy
Show Notes Chapter Markers

What does it take for a leader to think strategically? You’d hope you didn’t need to ask this question as it should be a core capability. It’s often not as they focus on workplace culture or commercial tactics, both of which are important too. But it’s critical to a clear view as to where the organisation needs to move towards, whom it should serve and how, and how to win you. That way you can build the capabilities, identify the resources and systems you need, and evolve your culture.

In this interview Rita McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School, tells me that strategy is more important than ever given the complexity and uncertainty we face. But its practice needs to change, away from the closed, top-down approach that characterises many traditional organisations. She talks eloquently about the importance of leaders getting out to the edges of their organisation to spot inflection points and pick up weak signals of change. She also highlights some fascinating practice at Microsoft and Klockner, focusing on how they encourage new and different voices to share their perspectives on where to take the business. 

For more details about Rita and her work check out her excellent website:

Her latest book 'Seeing around Corners: how to spot inflection points in business before they happen':

Her weekly Thought Sparks: and podcast:


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Highlights of my work

Every Leader Has Flaws. Don’t Let Yours Derail Your Strategy (HBR):

5 strategies to infuse diversity & inclusion into your organisation (HBR):

4 actions transformational leaders can take (HBR):

Four building blocks of transformation (S+B):

How to be a visionary leader and still have a personal life (HBR):

How to practise strategy in an uncertain world (Strategy+Business):

10 principles of strategic leadership (S+B):

How to reinvent your organisation in the middle of a crisis (HBR):

How to convince people that a crisis is also an opportunity (Forbes):

What it takes for leaders to see their world(s) differently
What the covid-19 crisis has meant for the role, and importance, of strategy
The role of a leader in the modern age
How to sustain and scale experimental-learning
Personal experience at a leadership team meeting in Microsoft
Great example of a company that “gets out to the edges”
How the CEO Klockner busted through bureaucracy to forge more direct communication.
The role AI can play in strategy
Her motivations for pioneering the development of strategy tools and tech
Where innovation and strategy gets “gummed up” in companies
The three areas of work from others she’s most interested in
Examples of successful and unsuccessful ecosystems
The power of putting innovation at the core of strategy – and some examples