What should be obvious to most observers of the national scene is that we have a long list of national problems that seem to stay with us decade after decade with little progress toward solution. Constant conflict is the result. I am convinced that our major national problem is not energy, education, the economy, etc. Instead, it is the lack of planning.
Every business major at our colleges and universities knows the names of U.S. business gurus W. Edwards Deming, Peter Drucker, and Peter Covey. If you add in the name of Peter Pyhrr you have a full spread of the major management theorists who have influenced how business and industrial management has been conducted in the United States over the past 70 years.
Deming gave us his theory called “Total Quality Management” back in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Peter Drucker added “Management by Objectives,” Peter Covey focused on the “habits and practices of effective business and industrial leaders,” and Peter Pyhrr believed that all budgeting for organizations should start each year at zero. Thus, “Zero Based Budgeting.” In short, we have the foundations of planning theory at work in American business and industry. We need to apply the same approaches to our government.
A well run business develops plans that take it into the future. In the formative stages of the planning process those who share the business responsibilities are asked for their ideas so that everyone is involved. Thus, there is opportunity for input. The process lets everyone know where the business is headed so they can pitch in to help. Problems to solve are as varied as energy, illegal immigration, public education, infrastructure, national defense, and balancing the budget, to name but a few.
If one wants to borrow money to start a new business the first thing the potential lender will request is a business plan. The business plan should include current assets, the need for the product or service, an assessment of the marketplace, and what the money is to be used for. If a business plan is necessary before a business can borrow money shouldn’t our government, our biggest business and the ultimate borrower, be required to have a comprehensive business plan?
Our government’s lack of planning has the country in debt to one funding source or another for more than $21 trillion. If our people don’t know the government’s plan to solve the debt problem, how can they become a part of making the plan successful?
If we had a National Planning Commission, what would they do? One assumes the make-up of such a group would include a small number of professional planners. This small group would not be the ones planning to solve major national issues. Instead, they would serve as a steering committee to see that 1) the major areas of national concern are placed into a planning model; 2) that input is sought from those identified as professionals involved in the problem field; 3) that all aspects of the problem are aired; and 4) that an action plan for solution of the problem(s) is submitted to the president and Congress so that the necessary resources could be applied to solution of the problem.
Would this system be lost in the same quagmire we currently are experiencing?
One would hope that Congress and the president would support having such a planning mechanism to help research and recommend solutions for national problems. Further, providing regular reports to our leadership and the news media would keep the progress of the planning mechanism on the minds of both the leadership and the public. Shared information on the issues should garner support for the eventual solution of the problems.
Planning something is far better than planning nothing. At the very least, good planning would identify the complexity of the problems and help eliminate conflict.