Op-ed: There HAS to be a plan

Rob Woodbridge
We need our leaders to articulate what “safe” looks like and to establish when it will be safe for life to gradually restart, writes Rob Woodbridge.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid plans. They always seem to be the opposite of being agile. They have rules. They are strict. They don’t allow for any kind of deviations. They are, well, plans. And I mostly hate them.

But not right now.

The world is in a weird place. It’s not only that we are desperately fighting a foe that is cunning and ruthless. The human race has done that before. It’s that we are locked in our homes and locked out of life. There is no plan for where we are right now – that part is clear.

We’ve never been here before and, for the most part, the global people are rolling with it as best as can be expected. Most of our global and local leaders are doing their part to put the population at ease and we all seem to be slowly settling in to the new normal routine of remote working and supporting each other. We are also learning how to live with our families or yearning for company if you live alone.

The real question is what’s next? How long can we go on like this? The answer cannot be we don’t know and forever. There has to be a plan.

Shelter in place is not a plan. Nor is wait and see. We need a global agreement on what “safe” looks like. When will it be safe to be allowed back into the world? Telling us that our current situation could last for 12-18 months is not a plan. It may be an uncomfortable fact but it’s not a plan.

It really is time to lead. To give us all hope that when this ends, we will be OK. Life will come back to whatever life looks like and we will be able to share a meal with family and friends again.

We can’t control the unknown so there is no reason to speculate on what exact day we will have control of the spread or when a vaccine will be ready. We can’t plan for that so let’s just say that it will come some time in the future. We also can’t wait for that to be a reality before we are able to get back to work and life. A little hope here, a little leadership here, would go a long way.

What does a safe enough world look like before a cure? What are the metrics that we need to hit in order for us to be released? When we hit those milestones, who goes back to work/school first? What businesses are allowed to be re-opened? What is our new normal when we go to restaurants? Grocery stores? Movies? Concerts? What restrictions will there be on travel? How can we ensure there is not a rebound because of our negligence in adhering to these rules? What are the new rules of life engagement?

You know, a plan.

I’m not asking for a date for when this will happen. We just need to know that once we cross some magic recovery threshold (no new cases for two weeks?) our leaders have a plan for what’s next. We can’t make a recovery plan as it is happening the way we did when this started (and continue to do today).

It is this uncertainty that humans are battling right now. I think we’ve adapted very quickly to our new schedules and, except for the future Darwin Award winners out there, have tried our hardest to keep our families, friends and communities safe. A lot has been asked of us and we have answered with a profound and thorough response. And as more draconian measures are put on us we have a right to ask harder questions of our leaders. We need some give as more and more is taken.

This uncertainty could be eliminated by laying out how we think we will recover – knowing that it will evolve and doesn’t have an exact start date. We have a lot of time on our hands, thinking time. Our children are asking us the hard questions and we have no answers other than wait and see. We need some sort of sign that our leaders are really thinking about the future. A small injection of optimism by just talking about what’s next would go a long way right now.

The other side of this will be hard. It will be the defining moment of a generation. A shared experience that simply reminds us that we are neighbours on this rock despite the distance between us all. We have seen the best in humanity during the harshest of hours and it has happened without thought or threat. We are ready to embrace what comes next, we just need hope.

And a plan.

Rob Woodbridge is a serial entrepreneur based in Ottawa. This column originally appeared on his website, robwoodbridge.com.