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“The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.” – Agha Hasan Abedi
Humans are a very diverse species. Each one of us is unique, we all have our strengths and flaws. Surprisingly there are not many variations of basic management categories: Reactive, inactive, proactive and interactive. Let’s briefly evaluate all four of them:
Run, run, run. And then run more. The reactive approach to a problem is first to identify its cause or source, then try to remove or suppress it. Being reactive implies your action begins after the fact; acting in response to a stimulus or situation, as if simply poised waiting for something to happen. We know, this is never the case. Managers usually feel reactive when they are hit by something they didn’t anticipate.
Organizations in which reactive management is dominant tend to use as their model the oldest and most stable form of organization known, the big family. Like most families, most reactive organizations function as autocratic hierarchies. Ironically, although reactive planning is authorized from the top down, the actual planning is carried out from the bottom up.
Reactive planning is always focused on getting rid of what is not wanted. The problem with that paradigm is that when one gets rid of what one does not want, often one does not get what one wants but gets what one wants even less. However, effective management focuses on getting what one wants, not getting rid of what one does not want. Reactive organizations walk into the future, facing the past, backward.
We all experienced it: A crisis is unfolding before us and we don’t do anything. We might have good intentions to solve the problem but another, more important crisis is taking all of our attention. A few days later, the initial crisis resolved itself. That’s Garden Eden of inactive management. Unlike the reactivist, who tries to eliminate the cause of a problem, the inactivist settles for suppressing the symptoms. The inactive manager is always in crisis management mode. Our increasingly complex world increases the numbers and severity of crisis. That keeps the inactive manager very busy trying to prevent change. His attention is occupied keeping people busy doing nothing.
You’ll find inactive managers in organizations whose survival is independent of its performance. Many government agencies come to mind, subsidized and regulated organizations. They tend to change when somebody imposes their will on them.
Proactive management implies that your response is preceding the action. Creating a solution before being requested to have one. Anticipating what is needed and having it ready. This seems like a great position to be in; however you need to know what to be ready for. You cannot anticipate everything. Proactive managers predict and prepare, that is, they attempt to predict the future, then establish the objectives they want to attain, and finally create a plan to get from where they are to where they want to be. Forecasting is a major preoccupation of proactive managers.
The proactive manager believes there are a few problems that technology can’t solve, the reactive manager tends to think they can only be solved by a softer, human approach. Unfortunately for proactive managers, as the rate of change in the environment accelerates and the environment becomes more complex, their ability to forecast accurately deteriorates. Many proactive plans are never completely implemented because errors in the forecasts on which they are based become apparent, nullifying the plan. In addition, it is very apparent that the objective of planning should not be to prepare for a future that is largely out of our control, but to control that future as much as possible by developing mechanisms/products that have the most effect on our futures.
The objective of management should be to create as much of the future as is possible. Implementing an interactive management style means managers get involved with people without there being a problem or a situation. They understand what’s happening around them. The more a manager knows about the whole organizational system, the goals of each person, the more successful the organization and the manager will be. Interactive management asks executives to very involved with the system environment, thereby giving them access to a myriad of insights and knowledge. It allows an organization to maximize their resource – they don’t have to wait for events, overplan for possibilities or jump the gun.
Implementing an interactive management system doesn’t mean the organization will never be blindsided. However, when the unexpected happens, management will have a better sense of how urgent the matter is because they live and experience the priorities of the business. They will know who to deal with so the situation can be resolved with a minimum of resources and effort.
There are three major characteristics of Interactive Planning and Management: a) Interactive Management plan backward from where they want to be to where they are. b) Interactive planning, management and execution is a continuous process. The process is the goal, not the final plan. Because there is no more final plan. c) Every stakeholder is part of the collaborative planning process. This increases the chances of successful implementations dramatically since every stakeholder has a vested interest in success.
Because the principal product of interactive management is engagement throughout the organization (Planning, Implementation and Optimization), and because it requires as many stakeholders as possible to participate, it requires a significant change in the role of management. They are no longer required to spend the majority of their time preparing plans. Instead, their role is to encourage and facilitate, educate and advise.
In Part 4, we’ll be talking about the interactive planning process in detail.