Every small business owner knows the feeling of having their day thrown off course by a crisis. For many, the situation can get so severe that nearly every day is wasted reacting to emergencies instead of pursuing a strategic plan. While you can’t ignore urgent issues, it is critical to minimize their impact on your time. Otherwise, you can’t accomplish the proactive management tasks that will drive your business forward over the long term.
Reactive vs. Proactive Management Methods
Your business runs on a collection of processes you have put in place. These processes are the series of activities that get the work done, whether it is producing a product or providing a service. When you manage on a reactive basis, there is always another crisis as your processes break down, or worse yet, you never deliver reliable results in the first place. You don’t know what each day will bring, and you are constantly trying to correct unexpected errors. This method of management is reactive – you are reacting to unexpected events – and it is impossible to predict or plan for the next phase of your company’s development.
Proactive management, on the other hand, is a method that looks ahead. It is focused on predicting and preventing issues before they occur, so that no time is lost to unanticipated calamities. Many entrepreneurs argue this point, saying it is impossible to prevent issues that – by their very nature – are unpredictable. Fortunately, this is a common but faulty misconception. By implementing specific systems and habits, you can minimize the number of catastrophes your company faces, freeing you up for activities that add value to your business.
Putting an End to Chaos
Highly effective managers use specific techniques to get chaos under control, and they know how to keep process-related disruptions to a minimum. These are just a few of the pro-tips that can quickly get you from reactive to proactive management:
- Delegate – Hire and train the best possible front-line supervisors so you can delegate responsibility for correcting issues that have already occurred. This ensures that interruptions are minimal while you pursue your proactive agenda.
- Document – Many of your business processes are probably unwritten. Your staff does things a certain way, because that’s how things have always been done. The problem you face when your business operates this way is that you have no visibility into the effectiveness of your processes. Instead, put the time into creating process maps. These show each step from beginning to end, as well as who is responsible for which activities.
- Reconsider – Once you have visual representation of your business processes, take an objective look at how work gets done in your organization. Are there unnecessary steps? Have you allocated too many resources in one area and not enough in another??Don’t be afraid to restructure your processes to make them more efficient and more effective. This is the very essence of proactive management.
- Analyze – There is an old business adage that has been proven true time after time: You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Start collecting data on your results and make particular note of when and how errors continue to occur. Analyze this information to identify bottlenecks in your process flow, areas that frequently deliver sub-par results, and quality concerns that keep cropping up. With this data, you can make proactive changes to your business processes that will solve the root cause of your unexpected crises, so they don’t continue to occur.
When you approach the management of your business from a reactive perspective, you will spend most of your time trying to solve problems that have already occurred. Instead, commit to a proactive style that prevents issues from coming up, so you can focus on moving your business forward.