That This House Has No Confidence In the Leadership of the World Meeting of Families

I keep wanting to write further about the endless logistical and communications bungling that is the hallmark of the leadup to the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.  Every time I make the attempt, some new gross error renders me unable to write in polite terms about people who, for all that they have thoroughly earned the derision of the people of this city, are clearly trying their best, however inadequate their best may be.

USSS Pope Map
Official Pope map released by the Secret Service on September 2nd, and immediately declared inaccurate by the WMOF

At this point, simply enumerating the blunders would send any article or blog post into novella length. I expect that, in the fullness of time, books will be written by management and leadership experts, showcasing the planning and execution of the communications strategy as shining exemplars of What Not To Do.  However, as things stand now, thousands of hotel rooms remain unbooked, tens of thousands of railroad tickets remain unsold, and massive uncertainty exists as to where the general public will actually be permitted when His Holiness comes to the Parkway.  The Secret Service refuses to release information so that visitors and residents alike may plan, and when they do, the WMOF hastily calls press conferences to say that the information is incorrect or incomplete.  Mayor Michael Nutter has held multiple press conferences to angrily denounce rumors as fabricated and false, only to be contradicted days later when the rumors are substantially confirmed by the WMOF.  Philadelphia looks like a bunch of idiots, and had we had any role in choosing this leadership, apart from the elected officials who seem to be kept as much in the dark as the public is (not that that absolves them), we would deserve it.

I don’t know if the situation can or will be salvaged before the arrival of Pope Francis on September 26th.  At the very least, any further planning has to happen in a way that doesn’t look and sound like frantic improvisation by people in way over their heads.

I do know that responsibility for botched management rises to the very top.  With that in mind, this blog calls for the immediate resignations of WMOF Executive Director Donna Crilley Farrell, US Secret Service Special Agent in Charge David Beach,  and His Excellency Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia.  Throwing their deputies into the hot seat with fewer than 20 days left until the Pope’s arrival is as cruel to them as it is inefficient, but the simple fact is that they probably can’t do any worse.  And if there is any institution on the planet that understand that symbols matter, it’s the Roman Catholic Church.

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    1. Initial thoughts:

      Clearer communication to visitors about where they will be able to be during the Papal Mass (attendees pre-registered through parishes in *this* zone, general public without pre-registration in *that* zone).

      Opening more elements of the security plan (description of security checkpoint footprints and expected throughputs) to peer review.

      Revision of the transportation plan to rely more heavily on the subway system, which is going to be massively undersubscribed no matter what at this point.

      Having a single point of press contact with actual heft internally, so that they can gather all the relevant information and present it clearly to the public ASAP without constant contradiction.

      A web team reporting to the press lead that can publish *all* of the relevant information, in as much detail as exists, to the WMOF website for the public to review, without resort to intermediaries at local parishes or in the media.

      …and so forth. I’m sure someone with more experience in organizing groups larger than about 50-100, which is the limit of my experience, can chime in with more, but the fundamental point is that once your group size exceeds about 8, you have to rely on individuals having enough information that they can self-organize on the fly. Hierarchy doesn’t matter when the action tempo runs faster than the lines of communication do.

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