Go from Reactive to Proactive Management

Handling things differently with preparation and organization

A woman in town put on an art and wine walk this weekend. It was a colossal failure. Not because the art or the wine were bad, but because she is a classic "reactive manager."

I don't know if there could be better example of what can go wrong when you're reactive instead of proactive. Below are five classic problems that arose and how she could have easily handled them.

Time Management

The brochure had to be laid out twice because the correct information wasn't provided the first time. This not only taxed the volunteer help putting it together, it also added potential for more errors and it ultimately went to print late.

Answer: Get better organized. Be sure to have all the information in hand before delegating to someone else.

Setting Priorities

Early on the planner found out that there would be a large car show held on the same date and on the same streets. She decided to worry about that later. She was going to find great artists and wine makers. Of course, the huge car show completely overpowered the art and wine walk. In fact, few people even knew the art and wine event was going on.

Answer: If she had made it a priority to either change the date or try to combine marketing with the car show, her event could have flourished. By prioritizing poorly, the art show was doomed.

Managing Risk

Another risk the planner faced having a small art and wine walk the same day as a huge car show (if you ignore the obvious) was the investment in music. The art walk planner had hired an acoustical guitar player to play on a street corner. The car show had huge speakers set up and down main street, pumping tunes all day. The investment in the guitar player was wasted.

Answer: Because there would be money and time involved in putting on the art and wine walk, she should have been proactive and talked to the organizers of the car show about their plan, so she could make better informed decisions.


As the art walk neared, the planner was getting a lot of negative feedback—essentially that a train wreck was about to take place. She was stressed and frustrating to work with.

Answer: If she had been organized and proactive, she wouldn't have had to deal with 90 percent of the stress. She brought most of it on herself and others.

Poor Moral

The volunteers, sponsors, artists, wine makers were bummed. They spent time preparing and participating and it was all for nothing. Her reactionary management caused ill feelings and the event probably won't take place again.

Answer: And if the planner had been proactive and handled things differently the little art and wine walker would have been a success and people would be planning for next year's event.

The big take away for me, watching this event, was the value of organization and prioritization. And not to be afraid to face issues head on. The results of reactionary leaders can result his terrible consequences.

If you're a manager who suffers from lack of preparation and organization from time to time, you might want to check out our Supervisor and Managers Training Solutions.

Be proactive. Be organized. It makes that glass of wine at the end of the all that more relaxing. 

Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor—with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.