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Most everyone seems to agree that Reactive Management is worse than Proactive Management; however, it seems that I am constantly seeing Reactive Management from development managers.

Logic would suggest that there is some benefit to Reactive Management, since it is seen so often. I tend to see nothing but negative issues coming from this type of management, but I may be naive. In what sorts of programming environments/situations would Reactive Management be advantageous?

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closed as off topic by Oded, Yannis Rizos, Karl Bielefeldt, ChrisF Dec 16 '11 at 11:07

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An alternative branch of logic would be that reactive is easier to do/more natural. Thus more people do it, even though it might not be the best. –  unholysampler Dec 8 '11 at 19:55
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Logic would suggest that there is some benefit to Reactive Management

There is, It's Cheaper*

Consider the Following: You find corrupted data in the system

How you find the edge case that is causing and error? You need to first think of the edge case and\or go through all the code looking for possible edge cases that you may have missed. Imagine the man hours to do this with a massive Code base. Often that is what takes to be proactive.

What does it take to be reactive? Put in a logging mechanism, and wait for it to happen again.

Many argue that dealing with the bugs proactively is Cheaper in the long run. But in most cases its simply the case. Some bugs are just too difficult and time consuming to peg down and kill if you don't "Catch them in the act". So the decision is made to wait and see....

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+1: Indeed it is cheaper. It's definitely cognitively cheaper. –  Jim G. Dec 8 '11 at 20:27
I don't even know if it is necessarily cheaper but it is definitely easier to wait for something to blow up then react to it. It takes a lot more intelligence and thought to proactively address potential problems in the future, but doing that saves time and aggravation overall, Time being roughly equivalent to money, one might come to the conclusion that Reactive management is actually more expensive! –  maple_shaft Dec 8 '11 at 20:31
Ah, but you've gone and made a decision to do something (log) and then deliberately wait! Is this action, or reaction? –  Spencer Rathbun Dec 8 '11 at 20:37
what is with the asterisk (*or at least there is the illusion of it being cheaper) –  smp7d Dec 8 '11 at 21:50
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Never. Now that I have your attention, when it is a deliberate choice. But that makes it "Active management choosing to be Reactive". Why would anyone do that?

For the answer, look into the concept of initiative in combat. Many of the same concepts apply to good, active management. That is, instead of sitting and waiting for something to surprise you, you make a decision to wait and watch something before acting, instead of acting precipitously. This looks like reactive management, the same way a boxer taking blows in the corner looks like he is losing. It comes down to what is going on inside the person's head.

Panic? The boxer is letting things be done to him, and is on the way to a loss. Or a strategy? He's wearing out his opponent, and avoiding taking crippling damage while he waits for an opening.

I highly recommend the art of war for executives, as it is an easier read than the original, and it is applied to business. Sun Tzu has very good points on what is initiative, why it is vital, and many other things.

To quote him through the filter of translation:

Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.

Previously, he states:

What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.

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+1 for the boxing analogy. –  maple_shaft Dec 8 '11 at 20:33
needs a Sun Tzu quote, I like this one and it sorta fits with your answer "The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable." –  Ryathal Dec 8 '11 at 20:33
@Ryathal added a couple. Not my favs, but they help illustrate the point. –  Spencer Rathbun Dec 8 '11 at 20:45
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