Some people believe that the year 2000 or Y2K computer problem is a
crisis waiting in the wings. Others consider it much ado about
nothing. Those of us in the middle of this spectrum believe that
there will be problems, but that we will ride them out on a sea of
sustainable cooperation that will emerge even as problems mount. We
also see Y2K as a wonderful opportunity for building community.
As of right now, Y2K is still not on most people’s radar screen,
but this will change as 1999 winds down. As more people advance
beyond the awareness, denial and anger stages of Y2K, they will
reach a decision point. People will face the choice of ignoring the
problem, reacting out of fear or panic, or striving to turn the
year 2000 into a collective opportunity.
Ignoring the year 2000 issue completely is not a good idea. Even
if the impact of the problem is minimal, which is unlikely, people
that ignore the Y2K problem are likely to feed gloom and doom
fringe groups through benign neglect. If, on the other hand, the
year 2000 problem is even half as bad as some believe, ignoring the
problem means that you will be blindsided by a sea of
inconveniences or worse.
Joining fringe groups that are pushing people to flee their
homes, fill food coffers and stockpile other essentials is another
choice, but one that the masses cannot embrace. There simply is not
enough food, medicine, blankets, water, raw materials, solar
panels, generators or other essentials for everyone to stockpile. A
stockpiling, head-for-the-hills strategy is elitist. In other
words, it only works for a small percentage of the population. If,
on the other hand, the problem is not a big deal, this option
creates the very problem it was meant to address. There will be
shortages galore created by mass hoarding and panic. If there truly
is a problem, this solution compounds the pain for the rest of us.
Again, this option seems counterproductive in either event.
The third choice is the most logical. Build sustainable year
2000 plans within your community. Working cooperatively within
one’s community means that you are looking out not just for
yourself, but for everyone in the community. This includes the
poor, the sick, the elderly and all of the rest of us. This option
works for those that believe the problem is extremely serious, for
those that have staked out the middle ground on the issue and for
those that think the problem is no big deal. And the good news is
that no one gets hurt.
If Y2K results in minor inconveniences, we will have established
new relationships in our communities in preparation for other
challenges we may face. These could include hurricanes, floods and
earthquakes, or something as mundane as a zoning issue. If the
problem is serious, the community will have ensured that everyone
is prepared. The community preparedness strategy stems from three
principals. The longer one has to prepare for a problem, the better
one can deal with it. The worst time for disparate groups to get to
know each other is during a disaster. And, a community working
together creates better collective solutions than one could achieve
Preparations, which involve the creation of a Y2K community task
force, must begin now. This means that community leaders, elected
officials and business professionals should assemble a Y2K task
force. This involves organizing a team, creating a mission,
building awareness by working with other local groups, partnering
with the private and public sector, researching community readiness
and creating a millennium transition plan. If anyone would like a
generic guide for creating such a group, they may obtain it at
As localities mobilize to deal with this issue, consider the
wonderful opportunities that this presents in building a stronger
community for the future. I have met more people in the past two
months in my community than I did in my first nine years here.
Sustaining this group, no matter what happens in the year 2000, is
now our real goal. I hope you will all join us in this journey. It
is really the only logical choice.
This article was written by William Ulrich,
President of Tactical Strategy Group, Inc., Executive Vice
President of Triaxsys Research and Director of DFIc.
It a copyright publication of Tactical Strategy Group, Inc.
and has been submitted for publication as a syndicated column.