Pre-active

All organisations say that they want to be less reactive and become more proactive.  Fair enough. 

Being reactive means that you get on with your daily lives and respond without any forethought or planning to whatever happens to come your way.  This isn’t the best place to be in as you are always chasing your tail, always having to put down one job to pick up another and always changing horses mid stream.  At the same time your customers are always complaining or being awkward in that they don’t know what they want and can’t make up their minds.  We’ve all worked in organisations like this and all organisations have reactive phases they have to work through.

How much better then would it be to work in a proactive organisation?  This is where you spend a lot of time working on planning and thinking hard about what is coming over the horizon.  This means lots of engagement with customers, lots of meetings, lots of scheduling software and Gantt charts to help you get a grip of the future.  A proactive organisation is one which really knows where it is going and is a great place to work as nothing is ever a surprise, nothing every goes wrong and the customers are crystal clear about their needs and never change their minds.  All organisations want to be in this space and all feel that the effort to get there is worth it in the end and they will reap considerable reward for their mastery of the impending.

We’ve all worked in organisations that are striving to get there, because they all are, but I’ve never worked in one yet that has achieved this nirvana.  I’m sure that they exist but they are few and far between.  The effort to get anywhere near a proactive state is enormous and I can only presume that this is because it is a very difficult thing to achieve.

So what can be done?  There must be an alternative, a third way and there is.  Rather than trying to go from reactive (a normal human condition) to proactive (a very difficult condition) organisations should aim to become pre-active.  Yeah right!

Being pre-active is when you’re organisation is geared up to respond quickly to changes in requirements, changes in plans and unforeseen issues.  Rather than spending time and effort to control the future, which you can never do, you put this energy into creating the processes and workflow that will accommodate life’s little surprises.  Things that could be done for example are, making product in small batches, having componentised product, having multi skilled teams that are allowed to make decisions at the point of contact with the customer and having strong relationships between the different functions within the organisation.  Product designers can interact with accountants, logistics, machine tool operators, marketing and management who all understand the need to refocus their attention on something new and quickly.

In pre-active organisations change is embraced and recognised as a legitimate activity and not an interruption to what you were meant to be doing.  A rapid response to change is a prized skill.  Planning teams are done away with in order to focus on making machine or process transition as easy and as painless as possible, for the customer.

Change is a constant and the only thing that can really be guaranteed in business and in life.  You should stop trying to be proactive and pre-activate yourselves as soon as you can.

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