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The success of a company in the efficiency of its operations. Essentially companies who can get things done eventually have a higher probability of success i.e the success of the business depends on how well all of the business functions are executed. Whether is building its MVP, selling to customers, serving millions of users, whatever it is. Therefore, the drivers, the leaders, and the managers of the team have a huge role to play in the success of every venture.

Hello, I’m Oluwamayowa, and this content is my first piece in this series, which I have named – One Step Ahead.

Why I’m Starting This Series

The whole idea of the “One Step Ahead” Series is to empower founders, team managers, and people in leadership positions with strategic information on leading better teams. Having led many teams and consulted on briefs around creating growth strategies and framing out the systems for those strategies to get well implemented, I can say authoritatively that the team leadership has a whole lot to do with the success of the project/venture/startup/business. Through this series, I will share my experience and research what you need to be a better manager.

Little Bit Of Intro To This Topic

So, what’s a proactive management approach, what’s a reactive management approach, and which is best and when to leverage either? I have a background in engineering, as my undergraduate study was in Chemical Engineering, so I like to see management and operations activities as a system or an engine. A system is bound to fail at some point, some parts get worn out, some parts fall out of line, and some parts just sincerely need an upgrade (probably because the demands on that system have grown a lot bigger). So proactive or reactive approach is really about deciding when you take action when these expected issues happen.

Which Are You? Proactive Manager or Reactive Manager?

Beyond overseeing tasks and projects, there are key intricacies that determine the pace, the process, and the outcomes of the project that rest on the manager (and his/her approach). When a project plan is created, at the point of creation, it will be erroneous to believe all will go smoothly just as planned. There is a long list of things that might go wrong that could delay the project timeline and outcomes. For example, what happens if a key staff on the project takes ill, what happens if the hypothesis the project is built on turns out to be wrong, and what might a situation of the team losing motivation cost? So, right now, what do you do with those issues when they arise or do you have a system/way to see those issues ahead and then deal with them before they even come up at all?

What Is A Proactive Management Approach?

Proactive management is centered around foresight, anticipation, and preparation. Managers who adopt this approach focus on identifying potential issues and opportunities before they arise, allowing them to take pre-emptive actions to steer the team toward success.

Here are some key features of a proactive management approach:

  1. Strategic Planning: Proactive managers engage in strategic planning, considering short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals and potential challenges. They develop contingency plans to address possible obstacles and ensure smooth operations even in the face of uncertainties.
  2. Preventive Measures: These managers prioritize preventing problems rather than just addressing them after they occur. They implement measures to mitigate risks and enhance team efficiency, which can lead to higher productivity and reduced downtime.
  3. Innovation and Adaptation: Proactive managers encourage their teams to innovate and adapt to changing circumstances. They are open to new ideas and create an environment where continuous improvement is valued.

A proactive measure could be, having a ‘floater’ on your team who does nothing but is ready to take things up if anyone on the team has any challenge that might make them be out of the project temporarily or permanently. Planning a time for scheduled rest and breaks for your team could be a proactive approach to ensure there are no burnouts.

What Is A Reactive Management Approach?

Reactive management, on the other hand, is characterized by responding to situations as they unfold. I like to call this the “Fire Brigade Approach”.

Managers adopting this approach tend to handle problems and opportunities as they arise, focusing on short-term fixes rather than long-term strategies.

Here are some traits commonly associated with reactive management:

  • Firefighting Mode: Reactive managers often find themselves in a constant firefighting mode, addressing crises and urgent matters without ample time for strategic planning. Usually, those problems just repeat.
  • Short-Term Solutions: Managers with a reactive approach tend to focus on resolving immediate issues without delving into their root causes. This can result in recurring problems and missed opportunities for improvement.
  • Lack of Innovation: Reactive management can stifle innovation within a team, as the emphasis is on maintaining the status quo rather than seeking new ways to excel.
  • Limited Vision: Managers who primarily practice reactive management may struggle to set clear long-term goals, resulting in a lack of direction for their teams.

Which is Better?

A proactive approach is the best place you want to always be as a manager. On teams I have led or consulted for, I usually advise that if there isn’t a strong manager/management backbone to the implementation of the project, it’s much better to keep it on hold. Even in our Venture Studio at Equilibrium Zone, one big thing we look out for in founders is how strategic you are with the management approach to delivering your leadership role on the venture.

In fairness, there are some moments where your hands are truly tied and you just have to get by with dealing with things as they come, but the goal is to start to hinge close to being proactive.

What are your thoughts?

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