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The Difference Between Proactive, Reactive, and Retroactive Management

Over the last few posts I have gone over the importance of developing and striving towards company goals. However, you will never be able to reach these goals if you have a dysfunctional process leading up to them. There are several different styles of management you can apply in order to reach your goals, such as proactive, reactive, and retroactive management. There are certain benefits and pitfalls of each management type, of course, but I’ve discovered over my years that the best approach to administration is a combination of these various tactics.

Be the New Eyes That Look at Old Problems – Retroactive Management

They say hindsight is 20/20. Retroactive management is a supplemental strategy where administrators react to problems after they occur. Looking back over old problems – and even old successes – allows you to better understand what you did right or wrong and how you can correct your strategy for the future. Retroactive management allows for a reconfiguration of your goals and process in order to move your company forward, just like how you should revisit your goals every 90-days to ensure they’re still attainable.

Retroactive management is a great practice if used sparingly so as to improve your current management tactics and increase the productivity of your staff. However, it’s important that you don’t view retroactive management as a reliable fallback option. If used too often, your team will have no feasible process to follow while working towards solving a problem. It would be like having you staff run blindly into a wall and only telling them where the light switch is after they suffer from a concussion – they will eventually be able to find it, but there will be a lot more headache and stumbling around than necessary.

Be The Difference – Reactive Management

The Fire FighterI often refer to reactive management as the “fire fighter” tactic. Mangers that use the reactive strategy tend to respond to challenges and projects as they appear rather than planning their tactics in advance. This is a common management practice for companies that specialize in emergency and disaster situations – hence the “fire fighter” – where preemptive planning is nearly impossible and any standing tactics are destined to be interrupted. Outside of these types of companies, however, some people simply prefer the spontaneity and excitement that comes from these fluid environments.

However, in a majority of cases, reactive management tends not to happen on purpose and is generally the result of poor planning and execution. Because managers are responding to problems as they arise, their priorities and tasks are constantly changing in order to address new issues at each turn. Trickling down, this inevitably causes their staff to fall behind in productivity and increases stress levels throughout the company.

Be Bold, Do Something New – Proactive Management

This is probably the best of these three organizational styles. By applying proactive management, you are able to plan strategies in advance so that minimal direct command is necessary. Proactive management focuses more on the process than the finished product or outcome, meaning you will have more time to engage in more thorough brainstorming with your team and will increase the productivity of your workers while also decreasing the pressure and stress that is inherent with reactive management. The key to proactive management is delegation and prioritization of tasks before problems have the chance to come up. Like I talked about in my post about setting realistic goals, a proactive manager will be able to breakdown their goals to see what problems might arise in advance so that they can plan for it before it happens.

Miri and GabrielIf you must choose one type of management style, proactive is the most obvious way to go. However, a well-rounded management strategy will actually use elements of each style in order to better grown and develop your productivity. While primarily focusing on a proactive approach, I also like to allow for the flexibility of reactive management and the educational possibilities of retroactive management. Finding a healthy balance between the three that works well for your company’s directive and culture should be a priority for you and your management staff.

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