The key difference between proactive and reactive strategies is that the proactive strategy is avoiding the situation by foreseeing, whereas reactive strategy is responding after an incident has occurred.
These two approaches are widely used in businesses as well as normal day to day lives of people. Although proactive and reactive strategies are equally important for a business to survive, there is a distinct difference between proactive and reactive strategies. Basically, proactive strategies are the strategies a company uses to anticipate possible challenges and threats while reactive strategies are the strategies a company uses to respond to some unanticipated event only after it occurs.
What are Proactive Strategies?
Proactive strategies are designed to anticipate challenges, threats and opportunities. A proactive approach is focused on planning for the future. Furthermore, it helps to recognise and prevent potential hazards before they appear. Thus, it can predict the future and achieve better outcomes. Moreover, proactive strategies will often look at the organization from a more analytical point of view. Therefore, they consider many factors accidents, customer complaints, claims, high labour turnovers, and unnecessary expenses.
Oftentimes, businesses who focus on proactive approach is more effective in problem-solving and dealing challenges. The following are some characteristics of a proactive organization.
Characteristics of Proactive Organization
- Target oriented – objectives are assigned, and progress is reviewed in a timely manner.
- Carry out short term and long term plans and have a separate emergency plan.
- Analyse markets, competitor behaviours and products; focus on innovative mindsets.
- Takes feedback and comments from the entire team prior to decision making
- Focus on customer satisfaction and evaluate customer feedback in a timely manner
- Work closely with technical and sales teams to design more opportunities
However, there are advantages and disadvantages to proactive strategies.
Advantages of Proactive Strategy
- Avoids threats and problems or makes handling problems easier
- Improves productivity, efficiency and the quality of final product
- More satisfied employees as they are empowered and feel their views are important for the success of the company.
Disadvantages of Proactive Strategy
- Cannot foresee every single threat
- Planning a project in advance requires more time.
What are Reactive Strategies?
Reactive strategy refers to dealing with problems after they arise, without planning ahead for the long term. In certain cases, unexpected problems may arise, either internally or externally. In such cases, the company needs to respond fast. And, this is when companies commonly use reactive strategies.
Given below are some characteristics of a reactive organization.
Characteristics of Reactive Organization
- The organization does not plan for the future and does not assign objectives. However, in an emergency, they will plan to handle the situation.
- Autocratic nature of top management
- All problems are tackled with gut feelings rather than having proper analysis
- Stressful workplace environment
- Do not analyse competitor behaviour, products or market
There are both advantages and disadvantages to reactive strategies.
Advantages of Reactive Strategies
- Employees have excellent ‘firefighting’ skills.
- It may sometimes save time as it does not include unnecessary planning.
Disadvantages of Reactive Strategies
- Projects may not meet target dates and may exceed the budget since there is no proper planning
- No proper allocation of resources
- Creation of panic and worry in case of a problem, which may pose a threat to the stability of the business
Applicability of Proactive and Reactive Strategies
Planning for the future will bring favourable outcomes for the organization in all aspects. If a company solely follow a reactive approach, the company will be at a huge risk. Nevertheless, there are problems a business cannot avoid, especially problems arising from the external environment. Under these circumstances, the organization must act fast, and prior planning does not work. Therefore, a business can not only move forward only by using proactive strategies, both the strategies are favourable to remain in the business.
What is the Difference Between Proactive and Reactive Strategies?
The key difference between proactive and reactive strategies is that proactive strategy always reacts to anticipated challenges, whereas reactive strategy involves dealing with unexpected situations. In other words, the difference between the application of proactive strategy and reactive strategy is mainly one’s preparation and accountability.
Let us look at the difference between proactive and reactive strategies by taking a case in the field of quality control. For instance, if a quality manager in a company sees everything as up to the standard until he or she receives a complaint, that is a reactive strategy. If the quality manager conducts a final inspection of products, random audits, etc. he could have avoided the complaint’ this is a proactive strategy.
Besides, proactive strategy can reduce the effort a company makes for crisis management, whereas reactive strategy will not take any effort until a crisis happens. Also, another difference between proactive and reactive strategies is that proactive strategy is applicable for anticipated threats, challenges and future conditions, while reactive strategies are applicable to the current situation.
However, there can be certain occasions where expected challenges, trends, and forecast might be wrong. Therefore, proactive strategies will not be successful all the time. However, reactive strategies avoid this situation as they only deal only with current problems or threats.
Summary – Proactive Vs Reactive
The key difference between proactive and reactive strategy is that proactive strategy is used for future while reactive strategy is used for the current context. In a proactive strategy, you foresee a problem and find ways to mitigate it. However, in reactive strategy, this is the opposite – you face the problem straight away. Moreover, businesses that emphasize proactive strategy are usually more effective at dealing with challenges. Proactive strategies are superior because they allow the company using the strategy the freedom to make their own decisions rather than responding out of necessity to a situation that already may be out of control.