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Government Productivity at the White House

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The Obama’s first state house dinner was a success. That is, of course, except for one minor detail: insufficient guest security.


© Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Tareq and Michaele Salahi were admitted into the White House State dinner by the U.S. Secret Service despite their absence from the guest list and their inability to show an invitation. Yet, according to the Salahi’s, they were invited:

By their own admission in the e-mails, they showed up at the White House gates at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 24 without an invitation — “to just check in, in case it got approved since we didn’t know, and our name was indeed on the list!”

But the Secret Service has said they weren’t on that list and that it erred by letting them in anyway.

In an e-mail sent just hours after last week’s dinner to Pentagon official Michele Jones, the Salahis claimed a dead cell phone battery prevented them from hearing Jones’ voice mail earlier that day advising them they did not make the guest list.

Since the majority of communication in regard to the invite was discussed via email, their permitted attendance is up for interpretation and still being investigated by authorities. Regardless, this incident has provided heightened awareness for future White House events:

The administration will make at least one change to its practices for invitation-only events: The White House social office will go back to making sure that one of its staff members will be present at the gates to help the Secret Service if questions come up, the first lady’s communication director, Camille Johnston, said.

Johnston maintained that this has been an existing policy, but the White House and Secret Service have said no such person was present last week as guests arrived for the dinner. Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley said the plan for the dinner did not call for a social office employee to be at the gate but agents didn’t call the office to ask for assistance or clarification.

There were many mistakes throughout this entire situation. However, the most significant was not the lack of an invitation, but the lack of significance in both the invitation and door security. What was the purpose of an invitation-only event if those in attendance do not have to provide evidence of their invitation to enter? Or worse, what if anyone can bypass door security at the White House with ease?

The system of invitations, the difficult work of the social secretary and the fearlessness of the Secret Service are all supposed to make the event run more smoothly for everyone involved. But in fact, they had the opposite effect: they unintentionally conspired to let the Salahi’s crash the party. The apparent lack of security demonstrated what can result when important elements of a process are underestimated or disregarded altogether.

Luckily there wasn’t any tragic result of someone getting into the White House uninvited, but the situation surely opened the eyes of many involved. Likewise, small mistakes in your organization can be just what’s needed to alert you to a bigger problem. While you aren’t likely running a high-security event, it’s still important to ensure that the only things that happen for your company are what you intend to happen.

When an activity requires strict guidelines to ensure optimal outcomes, attention to detail is of utmost importance. Without it, all the effort and hard work done may not matter in the end. Don’t allow pertinent projects fall by the wayside due to weak or faulty checks and balances. Instead, contact our business process consultants to learn more about how proper processes can positively influence workflow, project organization and stakeholder satisfaction. We’ll help you keep crashers out of your party.

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