March 23

Proactive vs. Reactive — Achieving the Right Balance of Both

Predictive management, not reactive management. Being a good reactive manager is to be admired. It means that you can calmly deal with surprises and quickly come up with solutions (rather than getting stuck looking for root causes). On the other hand, a person who practices predictive management might have been able to remove herself sufficiently enough so as to be able to see the problems arise in the first place. Really, like John Reh suggests, it takes a solid mix of the two to be an effective manager.

Product owners: it’s time to rethink reactive product management. It’s important to be proactive, to have a vision and a plan to make it happen. Or as Brad McCarty quotes “plan to work and work the plan”. But he also reminds us that you should also be prepared to be reactive. Without doing so, you won’t be able to respond to shifts in business focus, user feedback or major failures.

How to make sense of the firehose of ideas for your product. Oftentimes, being proactive means carefully not reacting to the firehose of feedback that will come your way each week. Instead, you must foresee the types of requests that you will regularly receive and have a plan to deal with them. As Maddy Kirsch explains, “you can’t afford to prioritize a specific set of feedback just because it appears urgent”. Instead, you should “ask yourself if implementing the suggestion or feedback will advance your product’s strategy”.

Lessons from 30 days in product management. Being proactive also means moving fast to get things done. Medha Ghatikesh gives us an example of how a ‘procrastinating manager’ can waste a whole day of a teammates productivity just by waiting to send an email. You must always think ahead and consider how your work, or lack of work, will affect things.

Paul McAvinchey

About the author

For over 20 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on in the exclusive Member Hub, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to, learn at Product Interviews and get a weekly newsletters that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.


You may also like