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Proactive Project Management

A project manager was given the task of managing the parts order management system. There were some issues in the beginning of the project like –

– The client representatives cancelled too many meetings.

– Responses to emails from the client were late or required too many reminders.

– Many tasks were incomplete as clarifications from client were not coming at the right time resulting in idle time among the team members.

Before you know it, the project is behind schedule and team members are demotivated as they are unsure about what to do. The project manager then has to be in “firefighting mode” and start getting everything back on track. This leads to stress and conflicts. This is reactive project management which obviously is not such a great method of managing projects. A better way is proactive management.

What is proactive management?

How is a Proactive Manager different from Reactive Manager?

Proactive Manager

Reactive Manager

Code Review Process

He will keep a track of all tasks and issues and work towards making small changes and improvements to have higher productivity and efficiency. For example he would ensure that the task of writing unit tests along with the code and proper code documentation is done during the development phase. This will help in eliminating many coding issues and code quality will be better.

A reactive manager might have a process to have a code review process in place wherein if there are too many issues in the code, he/she will initiate a process to document code which is neither effective nor productive. If issues are not raised in the code review, but come up in the test phase, it will be difficult to rectify everything and result in time and cost overruns.

Quality of Work

A proactive manager will set up meetings once in a fortnight where developers can talk about issues they are facing and other developers can suggest solutions or share best practices and workarounds. This will help in completing tasks quickly, ensure better quality and will help in team building.

A reactive manager might be too late in solving coding issues at the test phase. This will affect quality.

Planning course of activities

It is important to plan all phases, tasks and activities. There should be proper processes defined for all activities.
What will the end users do if there is a system crash?
What will the team do if the development server is down?
These are realistic scenarios and the project manager should think about such scenarios in the planning phase and have a plan to tackle them.

A reactive management approach will be steps taken after a system crash has taken place or thinking about how to adjust the project schedule if some team members go for unplanned vacation.
This will affect the project costs and schedule negatively.

Comparing Actual development with planned goals

A proactive project manager would compare the actual costs and time spent on tasks on a weekly basis with the planned numbers. This will help him to be one step up and can manage  delays and overruns up to an  extent.

A reactive manager might be too busy scheduling meetings, solving issues and allocating tasks that he does not compare actuals against the planned figures on a regular basis and will not be alerted of time and cost issues early enough to be able to solve them.

Relationship with customers

The proactive manager would build a good professional rapport with the customer. He would try to establish different points of contact with the customer like from the operations department, the IT department and so on. This will help in knowing the long-term plans of the customer, getting quick responses and also build a relationship for future business.

The reactive manager might not understand the importance of building a rapport from early on with the customer and if there are issues like non-responsiveness on part of the client, the manager will have to react by changing the planned tasks, send reminders to the client representative constantly etc. which might demotivate him and the team.

As you can see, proactive management is the order of the day where you have to finish tomorrow’s tasks today and achieve more with less. Anticipating issues and risks and having a plan in place to solve them or avoid them will help you deliver projects successfully.