Last week a man jumped the fence at the home of the President of the United States. This is a fairly routine occurrence. Except he made it to the door to the “residence” portion of the White House – where the first family lives. And made it through the unlocked front door – where he was eventually apprehended. That’s too close for comfort for an intruder getting near a head of state or their family. Some reviews will be done. Some measures will be changed. In this article the White House Press Secretary talks about one initial measure they will take:
“After Friday night’s incident, when the door is not in use, it will be secured,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, clarifying that officials would, in fact, lock the door.
My first reaction was a chuckle. Not a politically motivated chuckle, mind you. But a, “well, obviously…” sort of chuckle. But then it hit me…
How Often Do We Go To the Hard Solutions?
As technologists, we often over engineer solutions (and problems). In the coming weeks and months Congress will probably make an overly complex issue of this. I’ve already seen articles calling for checkpoints further out that will check property and persons of folks walking towards the White House… There will be partisan attacks, etc.
But the real problem here? The dog handlers didn’t let their dogs go soon enough as they do every other time and like they are trained to do. And the front door to the White House was unlocked. Now that isn’t that big of a deal.. If I had that security – I’d probably keep my doors and windows unlocked – even open. But there are some simple explanations and simple solutions.
That said – let’s learn from this..
As technologists there are lessons to pull out of this story –
If the solution meetings start with conversations about blame -you’re doing it wrong…
Let’s not forget that whatever happened in our environment is either still going on – or happened.. We want to fix it. Sometimes it is all the fault of a person and finding blame and dealing with the person doing something malicious is key. Usually? Just fix the problem… Try brainstorming instead of “blamestorming”… There is always time for blame and heads to roll later…
Stop ruling out the simple solutions…
If the door was locked? This would have been another White House fence jumper apprehended on the lawn. Don’t dig deep for complex answers and crazy theories (ala CNN during the missing Malaysian Airlines flight…) Look at the simple causes and solutions first. If evidence and research and study point to that fixing it? Try it for a bit and see… Lock that door and see if anyone gets into the residence again. Go back to covering basics and find out why that DBA didn’t respond to proper procedures and see if there was a communication issue.. I imagine a White House dog handler will never be slow to release a dog on a fence jumper who doesn’t comply again, either. SO there
I don’t know what happened operationally at the White House – but whenever something goes bad in IT – somewhere along the line someone screwed up in the communication department. Fix that.
So..let this be a good reminder and thought provoker next time you are troubleshooting an issue.. In the fire service there is a saying about doors… “Try before you pry” – I’ve mentioned it before. In the heat of the moment – pry bars, hydraulic vehicle extrication tools and boot kicks to doors have been brought to unlocked and unstuck doors.. It’s the opposite problem the white house had – but the root to what I’m getting at here is the same –
Keep it simple, silly. Start with the easy first and move up. Don’t go the other way – and be wary of folks who shut you up if you offer a simple cause or solution with something like “oh it could never be that!!!”