As the federal government “shutdown” continues, I am struck by what a misnomer that is. The government isn’t shut down – for if it were there would be no air traffic in the U.S. airspace, the president would not be protected by secret service, the troops would no longer be in Iraq or the at the American borders, and your hamburger would not have been inspected.
But as it is, the interstates remain open, the weather service continues to provide data to meteorologists for their forecasts, social security checks are in the mail (which is still delivering) and the animals at the National Zoo continue to be fed (although the zoo itself is closed).
A true government shutdown wouldn’t last a day because it would inconvenience so many people and cause untold disruption. As it is, those impacted are the tourists turned away from national parks and the Smithsonians, federal workers who are going without pay and ordinary citizens trying to get a passport – in other words, those without a prominent microphone or political currency.
Don’t use the federal government as a model for how to enact a shutdown. If your organization faces budget cuts or a policy impasse, call your reduction efforts by what they are instead of falsely labeling them as an organization-wide halt. Partial reductions in service labeled as full shutdowns fail to help others understand the true complexity and value of your enterprise. If you’re ceasing operations, don’t do it halfway. Instead, truly close and leverage the pain to inspire a solution.