Proactive Vs Reactive Management
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I have been thinking a lot about micromanagement lately. It seems the
corporate world is consumed with mini-dictators who are bent on directing the
activities of others. I also see this in nonprofit organizations consisting of
volunteers and managed by leaders who can be rather ruthless. Nonetheless, I
have also noticed there appears to be an inclination for such managers to be
reactive as opposed to proactive in their style of management, and I cannot help
but think that micromanagement and reactive management are somehow related.
I have met a lot of reactive managers in my time. All exhibit the following
* Seldom has time for interoffice planning/organization meetings.
* Has trouble effectively communicating with the staff, particularly
articulating objectives and plans.
* Not interested in or doesn't heed input from subordinates.
* Spends more time supervising than managing.
* Changes priorities on the fly.
* Rarely, if ever, produces priority lists (keeps it in his/her head).
* Bipolar - knows great enthusiasms and is easily depressed.
* Thrives on chaos - sees themselves as saviors. Likes to swoop in and solve
As to this last point, we have encountered situations like this on more than
one occasion, but in particular we were contracted by a large insurance company
in the Midwest to audit the performance of two systems development groups in the
company. One group appeared to be well organized and managed; they quietly went
about their business and delivered their work products on time and within
budget. Another group was just the antithesis of the other; systems were
installed prematurely and never to the customer's satisfaction, and assignments
were routinely late and over budget. Nonetheless, the manager of this latter
group was well respected for being able to put out fires at a moment's notice.
When we finally presented our results to the board of directors, we made the
observation that their head firefighter was also the cause of all of the
problems he was correcting. Yet, whereas the manager of the group who quietly
produced superior work products was unrecognized, the head firefighter was being
amply rewarded for his efforts. Basically, he was taking advantage of the
"squeaky wheel getting the oil" phenomenon. Frankly, the executives were
surprised by our comments and that such a situation had arisen in their company.
There are two reasons for reactive management; either for political gain (as
in the insurance example above), or because people simply do not know how to be
proactive. One excuse commonly heard from reactive managers is, "We never
have enough time to do things right." Translation: "We have plenty of
time to do things wrong." True management is hard work, requiring skills in
planning, analysis, organization, leadership, and communications. To some, it is
easier to let problems come to them as opposed to trying to anticipate problems
and take action before they occur. In other words, they resign themselves to a
life of reactive management.
The proactive manager invests his time and money in planning and,
consequently, spends less in implementation. In contrast, the reactive manager
regards planning as a waste of time and is content spending an inordinate amount
of time in implementation, thereby incurring more costs and, because of the
ensuing chaos, needs to micromanage people.
Young people coming into the workforce tend to learn from their managers and
emulate their style for years to come. If they see proactive management, they
will believe this is the proper way of conducting business and perpetuate this
style, but if they only see reactive management...
This leads me to believe we will be plagued by reactive management for quite
some time to come.
If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not
hesitate to send me an e-mail at
About the Author
Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant located in Palm Harbor,
Florida. You can find his work on the Internet at:
He can be contacted at:
Copyright © 2008 Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-01-07 19:33:41 in Business Articles