What is proactive and reactive project management?

Proactive: Proactive approach is that focus your efforts and attentions on the anticipated consequences which may arise during project execution. Intelligent project managers adapt this approach, because if the inadvertent situation arises suddenly you have mitigation plan in your hand, you can better tackle that situation without changing project schedule, cost overruns etc. Risks and negativity about the project is always present, during project planning anticipate those potential opportunities/risks, categorize them according to impact level and probability of occurrence, provide training to all project staff to handle opportunities/risks.

It is very best that as proactive project manager you work with your team and stakeholders involved including potential stakeholders to carefully analyze the project domain, identify opportunities/risks, anticipate their consequences and develop mitigation plan prior to occurrence of risks. Proactive approach works when you are continuously taking feedback from all departments, if there are some deviations, update mitigation procedures/plans. There is continuous cycle of improvement which includes inputs for plan, development of plan, implementation, if deviations are found, report that variances, incorporate in plan and then implement. This approach is also used for handling stakeholders proactively, identify their concerns and apprehensions, address their concerns, so that they cannot creates hurdles in project execution. Proactive approach is also beneficial for QA activities because poor product quality is the major reason for project failure.

Aspects of Proactiveness

  • Identification all stakeholders during project planning phase.
  • Identification of all risks (including potential risks) and develop their risk mitigation plan before project execution.
  • Proactively monitoring and controlling critical tasks.
  • Identify critical paths proactively.
  • Develop contingencies plan. 
Proactive and Reactive project management
Proactive and Reactive project management

Reactive: Reactive approach is completely different from proactive approach. Reactive project managers thinks/starts working when the situation is actually arises. This approach is also known as firefighting approach. A significant number of project managers fall in this category. Reactive approach could work with the project having small scope, less number of stakeholders are involved, shorter time span etc. Because proactive approach required time and resources, small projects could not bear over cost. But this approach is not suitable for larger projects where huge sums of money, reputation is at stake. There are some reasons why some project managers become reactive due to their heavy workload, they think that they will handle the problem if arises, only experienced project manager can exercise this option. Reactive approach is tense and inefficient. It may lead to lower team performance, exceeding time schedule etc.

Reasons of reactive approach

Any crisis may force you to change your plans. You may need to make interim decisions to cope the inadvertent situation.

Organization may have ineffective planned processes/policies/procedures. Time spent to fix these problems, instead of developing plans for the future.

Reactive management style is exciting, as less attention required to forecast the situation.