Today, Americans are living in a world of “if.”
Despite all the speculation from the media, no one seems to know how long the ever-tightening series of restrictions across the country will continue—or how much worse it will get. This state of uncertainty is taking its toll on Americans as much as anything else (including the virus).
Mass Cancellation and Confusion
Rather than live with uncertainty, organizations are canceling events well into the future. Families are canceling major celebrations and gatherings. Business owners might be able to keep their doors open if only they knew how long they would need to operate with little or no income. Such chaos and confusion will only result in further damage to our economy and way of life.
Our leaders owe us more. Our federal, state and local governments have dedicated intense government resources to shutting down the country, yet they seem unable to plan beyond the shutdown. On the contrary, many politicians are adding to the uncertainty with dire warnings that the shutdown will last an undefined long time.
Still, why are they not dedicating more focus and resources toward reopening the country? Where are the politicians explaining under which conditions the country can reopen? Will they first allow certain businesses to reopen? Or only open certain business hours? Or open the country by region?
We are told nothing. We can only assume we are hearing very little about reopening the country because few are planning on how and when to lift the restrictions.
Planning for the Future
There is no question that politicians are dealing with a lot of pressure and uncertainty themselves. Still, they have much more information and resources than we do as citizens. Certainly, there are public servants who are capable of undertaking analyses given this information.
In business school, I learned that no one can wait for full knowledge before making plans. In fact, all plans are based on partial information, analyses and assumptions. No one expects our leaders to know the future. However, we do need them to provide us with their best assessment of how the shutdowns will play out.
President Eisenhower is famously quoted as saying, “Plans are worthless. But planning is essential.”
Our leaders need to follow Eisenhower’s counsel. They need to begin planning and informing us of the possibilities. Right now, our leaders only seem able to inform us about the crisis, which will cause it to last months longer than it needs to. They owe the American people more.