The Undeniable Benefits of Proactive Problem Management
Do you ever go through periods at work that feel like a constant game of whack-a-mole? Just when everyone swarms to solve one problem, a new one surfaces, and you never get a chance to clear your head and get anything in order.
Proactive problem management is about rooting out some of these “work surprises,” and putting together a system and strategy for solving and preventing problems. It’s also helpful in developing a business strategy.
Let’s briefly define proactive problem management with examples, then discuss its benefits and how to implement it into the workplace.
What is Proactive Problem Management?
We’re presented with so many rapid changes and problems in the workplace, and wrangling them all requires some finesse. Proactive problem management is one facet of a successful strategy.
The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) codified many of the concepts around problem management with clear terms and definitions. Let’s look into their definition of proactive problem management, and some of the key terms surrounding it.
An incident is anything that disrupts the regular workflow or the performance of equipment. It can also mean a decline in performance, such as a weak internet signal.
A problem is an incident where the cause isn’t known. Addressing a problem requires an investigation into the cause.
Let’s distinguish between an incident and a problem. An incident is something that happens, let’s say an email bounces. A problem is when the cause of the incident isn’t known; so the reason for the bounce is unclear.
Reactive problem management is the process for addressing a problem that has already occurred. This is the most common form of problem management. After investigating the cause of the problem, a team often swarms together to fix it.
Proactive problem management is about anticipating potential problems and preventing them. It entails looking at data and incident reports to identify trends and patterns, then putting systems into place to preclude or prevent incidents. It’s very similar to the risk management concept of mitigating controls.
Event Management Process is the system for monitoring proactive project management. It’s about stopping a problem before anyone is even impacted by it.
Examples of Proactive Problem Management
With these definitions in mind, let’s look into a few examples of proactive and reactive problem management, to see what they look like in real life.
A Doctor Visit
Let’s say you go to see the doctor about a stomachache, and he or she examines you, diagnoses it as an infection, then prescribes some antibiotics to treat it.
In this scenario, the stomachache is the problem, as you don’t know what caused it. The doctor’s investigation into the root cause is an example of reactive problem management.
On another occasion, you visit the doctor for a checkup, and everything looks fine. As part of the checkup, the doctor advises you to eat well, take vitamins, and exercise.
In this scenario, there was no incident. However, steps were taken to prevent one from happening, with the doctor’s advice for healthy living. And so this is an example of proactive problem management.
Now, let’s look at a workplace problem. Let’s say a remote team is having a meeting on a conference platform, and the audio stops working halfway through.
At this point, the IT team swarms around the problem to identify the cause and fix it. This is reactive problem management.
Over the next few days, the IT team does its due diligence, investigating what caused the audio to fail and putting preventative measures into place. The very next week, the team has the same meeting, and everything proceeds without a hitch.
This is an example of proactive problem management: there was no incident, as preventative measures were taken to keep one from happening.
As you can see, proactive problem management is about researching and addressing causes before they have a chance to happen. And reactive problem management means rooting out the cause of an incident that has occurred, and fixing the problem.
How to Implement Proactive Problem Management
Implementing proactive problem management is about planning, brainstorming, and looking ahead. It also entails collecting data and identifying patterns.
Proactive problem management benefits any department within an organization, not simply IT. Let’s look at a few ways to implement it into the workplace.
Track Data on Problems and Incidents
For most departments, particularly IT, you tend to see the same incident over and over again. Proactive problem management looks at what you’re doing to reduce these incidents.
Reactive problem management plays an integral role in putting systems in place to prevent further hangups. After a team has investigated a problem and identified the cause, they’ve developed a system. Codifying this system is a central component to mitigating and reducing incidents.
Keeping data on problems is important, too. By knowing the frequency of incidents, and when and where they occur, it’s possible to create procedures. Understanding which incidents occur the most frequently also helps with resource allocation.
Research and Know Customers
Customer needs change so rapidly with market trends that it’s necessary to constantly refresh and update products in order to meet these needs.
A proactive approach to product development means brainstorming ideas in light of current and anticipated trends. This forward thinking results in a product that serves customers, and prevents creating something that’s irrelevant or outdated.
Promote a Mindset of Growth
A company culture can cultivate a proactive approach to problems as well.
When a culture is open, welcomes debate, and listens to feedback and constructive criticism, it creates an environment where people are making improvements all the time.
One effective process for developing a proactive culture is with a weekly meeting, where everyone reflects on the activity of the week, and brainstorms ways to improve processes, products and services.
In sum, proactive problem management is helpful in many parts of an organization. It benefits the operations that allow people to communicate and use equipment. It also benefits the product and services a business produces.
Benefits of Proactive Problem Management
Proactive problem management is a systematic approach to reducing the interruption of workflow. Let’s look at some of the ways it benefits an organization.
It Reduces Incidents
Most clearly, proactive problem management keeps systems running smoothly. It’s about looking ahead to things that might happen, and then avoiding or reducing the occurrence.
When organizations utilize proactive problem management, people don’t even realize they’re avoiding problems. Meetings run smoothly, the internet works, and a business consistently produces a solid product or provides top-notch service.
The Work Day is Predictable
When a department exclusively uses reactive problem management, it’s constantly swarming around one problem and then another. It forces a team to work on whatever fire happens to be burning at the moment.
Proactive problem management, on the other hand, is systematic.
It’s easier to know what to expect from a workday when energy is geared toward researching data and putting processes into place, rather than playing whack-a-mole.
A Time Saver
Have you ever noticed that the first time you do something, it takes forever, but then after you’ve done it a dozen or so times, it takes way less time?
Reactive problem management is about solving a problem for the first time. For this reason, it tends to be a time-consuming process.
With proactive problem management, on the other hand, a system has been put into place (thanks to the knowledge gained from reactive problem management). And so you’re doing something that you’ve already done many times before, which uses up much less time and energy.
You’re also not going out and fixing things, as many problems don’t happen in the first place.
As you can see, proactive problem management brings a lot of order into a workplace, so it’s definitely a boon to any department.
Proactive problem management is one approach for addressing problems. It is used in IT, company operations, product strategy and anywhere, really.
Developing the systems and processes for proactive problem management leans heavily on investigating and solving existing problems. It’s also important to collect data, in order to understand which problems occur the most frequently.
We see proactive problem management wherever we go. Even a stop sign alerts us to prevent the possible incident of hitting another car.
The forward-thinking aspect of proactive problem management allows an organization to run smoothly. People fix problems before they even start.