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What is proactive project management?

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The October 2014 event was about proactive project management. An interesting presentation entitled “From reactive to proactive management” was jointly delivered by Penny Hubbard-Brown, Deputy Regional Director and Stephen Wong, Senior Project Manager; both for Mace Ltd.  

The presentation explored all stages of the lifecycle of a project and explained the steps to move from a reactive management style to bring increased proactivity into a project. The presentation, held at Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, was well attended by around 50 members and guests.

Penny Hubbard-Brown has been based in Hong Kong for six years and with Mace for over ten years. She has run a number of projects and programmes in many sectors, both in Hong Kong and in the UK. She also has built and led several PM teams and has a fair understanding of what makes a great, proactive project manager.  

Stephen Wong has been based on the Science Park Phase 3 Project for the last two and a half years. Stephen has led a number of workshops with the team to adopt a more proactive approach.  They are well placed to share their experience with the audience.

To begin, Penny highlighted the difference between reactive management and proactive management. Reactive management refers to a situation in which we cannot (or do not) plan ahead for problems or opportunities. Simply put, we only react as such problems or opportunities happen. In contract, proactive management happens when we do plan ahead to manage or avoid problems.

Penny went on to explain the reasons for a reactive state. Among them were:

  • a crisis which might have forced us to change or abandon the original plan
  • poorly planned processes and policies
  • people enjoying the “buzz” out of working in this way

Even if we enjoy working in this manner, there are problems with reactive management. Firstly, the reactive approach tends to lower the quality of work. The project might well be out of control. (We may be able to fight fires successfully, but we will sometimes fail.) More importantly, if we get into firefighting mode, we will then only react to present issues instead of providing long term planning to head off issues before they occur. It can be difficult to find the root cause of problems when we have to focus urgently on symptoms.

When moving to proactive management, we can get control of time; we create more time for planning ahead and anticipating problems. We determine which tasks and responsibilities are critical so that we can prioritise works and delegate power to optimise processes, productivity and operational efficiency. We need to thoroughly review the processes, including an analysis of the information and communication flow, viability of using technology to improve effectiveness and efficiency, identification of red tapes and doubling handling works. Additionally, it can be the risk analysis and identification and prioritisation of risks that we face.    

The presentation ended with an exercise called “The insight – color energies.”  Everyone in the audience was asked to decide what color is most like them based on the adjectives provided for each of the “colors”, these adjectives all described types of behavior. One of the key learning points was “We must value differences if we are to build more effective teams to deliver projects”.

Joe Wong
Committee member



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