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Are you a proactive or reactive manager?

by Jessica Zartler / March 24, 2016

When you are managing what sometimes feels like a circus, there is no one-trick pony that’s going to hold the show. Effective project management requires you to be agile, and not just with a Kanban Board and some fancy business jargon. The real grit of a project manager relies in her or his ability to not only react, but proact, if you will.

Reactive management is easy to spot. It feels like you are always putting out fires and jumping from one emergency project to the other, juggling resources and time. There are things that do happen that are out of anyone’s control, your company may not have procedures and planning in place for these crises or heck, you may even just enjoy the buzz that comes with being under pressure. However, if this is happening more often than not, it may be time to reassess why it is happening, save yourself some stress and employ these 5 Steps to More Proactive Project Management.

     1.  Time is relative, take it back              

What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Time is the best gift we can give to ourselves and others. When you give time to yourself and your team, you can plan and anticipate problems that may arise. Need help with this? Check out Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle to determine which tasks and responsibilities are critical. Delegate or delay anything that is not crucial for your company or project’s survival and create a guide for prioritizing work. Even more effective than “What to Do First” may be a “Stop Doing” list. Share all of these things with your team, help them understand the best ways to manage their time based on the goal and be there to offer guidance.

     2.  It’s all in the process

It is difficult to thrive in a system that is counterproductive. One of the best things you can do to become a more proactive manager is to examine how working practices by individuals, or processes as a team, may be slowing down or complicating progress. When you have carved out time with #1, map and challenge department, team or individual work with flowcharts and see if there is room for improvement. Assess and take action to manage risks, identifying which are the most important. And make sure you include team members in this process in a way that is constructive, and don’t overload people who are already swamped. Change is better in increments so start with small bites.

     3.  Morale is everything

If you throw out all of these other ideas, keep this one. Morale is key to keeping teams healthy and functional. When you are under reactive management the team can feel overwhelmed, underappreciated and well, just plain down. Don’t fake it or try and repress problems that arise, instead acknowledge the high-pressure situation and reassure the team with the the actions you are taking to solve the challenge. Bring back positive emotions by knowing when to say thank you and looking for small victories. Let the team know it is okay to ask for help if they are struggling and provide opportunities to discuss any issues that arise one on one, as a team or at informal get togethers after work (perhaps with drinks or bowling that the company would sponsor). Focusing on the team vibe is a proactive way to bring the life back into your team.

     4.  Kaizen is key

Japanese for “improvement,” Kaizen is a business philosophy that is one of the best opportunities for proactive management, and a critical point for success, is to always be searching for opportunities to improve. From the CEO to assembly line workers, to logistics and purchasing, everyone on the chain and up and down the line is keeping their eyes open. Encourage your team members to suggest improvement or hold a “Crazy Ideas Meeting” on Fridays after lunch. Build in some space for Kaizen and watch your dominoes fall in line.

     5.  Automate the process with tech

Why do everything manually when we have technology? Productivity tools like Taskworld allow you to not only manage projects, share files, chat and collaborate, but they allow you to get a full 360 degree view of what’s going on inside of a project. With features like Overview and Analytics, you can check out the week’s to dos, see which tasks are close to being overdue and track progress with percentage of tasks completed. Looking across work proactively allows you to take action before it’s too late.

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