Proactive project managers are successful project managers. Instead of constantly reacting to new situations, they think ahead and nip issues in the bud before they happen. They always have the long term view in mind, irrespective of what is happening today. Being proactive means they are more efficient, their teams are cohesive, the project stakeholders have complete faith in them and most importantly they have higher project success rates. The following simple steps will help any project manager change from reactive to proactive project management.
Steps to adopting a proactive project management style
1. Proactive risk management
Risk management begins at the start of a project. A risk register should be established at during Project Initiation and the project manager needs to manage it on a daily basis. Logging a risk and assigning it to someone isn’t enough. The project manager needs to actively engage with the risk owner and see what can be done to mitigate it. If something can be done about then it should be done as soon as possible, before it becomes an issue.
Active risk register management alone isn’t sufficient through, if the project manager truly wants to be proactive then he/she needs to be constantly asking the question ‘What are the risks?’ whenever a new situation or event arises. This helps with the identification of unknown risks so that they can be controlled and resolved.
2. Looking out for opportunities
Opportunity management goes hand-in-hand with risk management. Future opportunities shouldn’t just be logged but should be actively exploited, and the project manager should always be on the lookout for opportunities that will benefit the project, project management processes and the final end-product.
Staying on top of opportunities and exploiting them will impress the project sponsors, especially if it means project benefits can be realised sooner than originally planned.
3. Continual process improvement
Key to proactive project management is continually looking for ways to optimise the project processes to make sure the teams operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. This means that the project manager regularly needs to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. They need to take an outsiders perspective, assess how well the project processes are working and implement optimisation changes where necessary.
This means talking to the project team members outside the regular progress meetings to get their feedback on the impact of the project processes on their efficiency. When recommendations are raised, the project manager should seriously consider them and implement them if they can add value.
4. Promote open and honest communication
Project managers should promote open and honest communication within the team and with the stakeholders. Hiding information, or just not communicating well leads to breakdowns in team cohesion. Team members stop trusting each other, and the project manager. Potential concerns, risks and issues don’t get raised in a timely manner and project management becomes reactive instead of proactive.
The first thing a project manager needs to do is eliminate the ‘blame game’. Mistakes should be seen as learning opportunities and the team should not be punished for them. The project manager should be honest about the state of the project and not hid information from the team members. Being honest, open and authentic in their communications promotes honest and open communication within the team.