“In the conduct of war, one must not rely on the failure of the enemy to come, but on the readiness of oneself to engage him. One must not rely on the failure of the enemy to attack, but on the ability of oneself to build an invincible defense.” – Chapter Eight, Sun Tzu Art of War
From these two sentences, we can see that pro-activeness is one important characteristic a good general should have. He has to be proactive in always being ready to engage the enemy and also keeps on building an invincible defense to fend of enemy’s attack.
Pro-activeness is a value that should be encouraged in your company. With pro-activeness, your company is able to react and grab opportunities fast, analogous to the readiness to engage enemy in war, and also be able to fend off any moves of the rival or limit damage, analogous to building an invincible defense in war.
But pro-activeness in business means certain amount of risk taking is needed. So there are two factors that will affect the proactive culture in your company. They are authority delegation and responses to mistakes.
Before you delegate authority to your leaders, let them know in what situations they should and can practice pro-activeness. If an opportunity comes up and the risk involve is one which the leader can reduce based on certain specialized knowledge he has. Then, by all means, he should be proactive and grab the opportunity, not letting the opportunity slip by. Where possible, train them to assess opportunity and avoid thinking traps.
Only after they have been trained and know in what situation they can and should practice pro-activeness, then delegate them the necessary authority to execute.
Response to Mistakes
Do not be quick to reproach any of your leaders if they took a risk and it turn out to be worse. Know how they come up with the decision; point out where the mistakes are.
This is because the company has incurred the costs of the wrong decisions already, so why not take it as a payment for lesson, learn from it, and share the lesson with other people. You never know such moves can help you prevent someone from committing the same mistakes by another person in your company. Sharing it would reduce the learning curve for other staff in your company. Such an approach will promote a proactive culture in your company.
So do you have a culture for risk taking and appropriate amount of authority delegated?