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Eight Key Project Management Insights from Seeing Around Corners by Rita McGrath

Rita McGrath's Seeing Around Corners is a deep dive into the art of spotting inflection points in business before they happen. While the book is a masterclass in strategy, its teachings also have profound implications for the realm of project management. Here are some key takeaways that project managers can glean from McGrath’s insights:

1. Anticipate Change Before It Happens

McGrath emphasizes the importance of recognizing early warning signals. In project management, this translates to the ability to foresee potential risks or challenges. Regularly revisiting risk assessments, staying updated with industry trends, and keeping an ear to the ground can help managers anticipate issues and adapt accordingly.

2. Embrace Experimentation

One of the core tenets of McGrath's book is the value of small, calculated experiments. For project managers, this means testing new methodologies, tools, or processes on a smaller scale before full-scale implementation. Experimentation can lead to more efficient practices and can also act as a buffer against potential failures in larger, more critical projects.

3. Develop a 360-Degree Perspective

Seeing Around Corners champions the idea of widening one's perspective. In the context of project management, this involves understanding not just the task at hand but the broader organizational goals, stakeholder interests, and external market dynamics. This holistic view ensures that projects are aligned with overarching business objectives.

4. Engage the Edge

McGrath often discusses the importance of the "edges" - those areas of a business that are on the frontline of change. Project managers can apply this by regularly interacting with team members on the ground, be it developers in a software project or field engineers in a construction endeavor. These "edge" team members often have firsthand insights into challenges and opportunities.

5. Nurture a Culture of Open Communication

Inflection points are easier to navigate when there's open communication. Project managers should cultivate an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their insights, concerns, and suggestions. Regular feedback sessions, open-door policies, and inclusive team meetings can facilitate this.

6. Stay Agile and Flexible

Just as businesses need to pivot when they spot an inflection point, projects too might need course corrections. McGrath’s work underscores the value of agility – the ability to change direction swiftly and efficiently. Adhering strictly to a plan without considering changing dynamics can be detrimental. Instead, project managers should be prepared to adjust timelines, reallocate resources, or even redefine objectives as needed.

7. Invest in Continuous Learning

In a rapidly changing world, the tools and techniques that work today might be obsolete tomorrow. McGrath’s emphasis on continuous learning is a reminder for project managers to invest in upskilling, be it through certifications, workshops, or webinars. A commitment to learning ensures that project management methodologies stay updated and relevant.

8. Build Strong Relationships

McGrath's strategies often hinge on human relationships, whether it's with customers, employees, or stakeholders. Similarly, the success of a project often depends on the relationships a manager has with their team, stakeholders, and clients. Trust, mutual respect, and open communication form the bedrock of these relationships.

Seeing Around Corners might not be a typical project management handbook, but its insights into strategic foresight, change management, and business dynamics are invaluable. Project managers looking to navigate the complexities of today's fast-paced business environment would do well to heed Rita McGrath's wisdom, applying her strategic insights to the tactical world of project execution.

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