Y2K and The Management of Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath
Leadership is setting the strategic direction; Management is getting things done. Katrina’s havoc shows us that government bureaucracies do not perform well in large scale emergencies where people are dying.
The Washington Post and others have been critical of the senior leaders running the Katrina operations. And I would agree that the “middle management” should be replaced — by one or both organizations that can deal with death and destruction:
The US Military and private business.
The governments have called up uniformed services. But I fear that the Cavalry was called in too late; a most unfortunate decision by the state’s governor. The civilian leadership should now give more control to the three star general on site and make him truly in command. And to implement control and rescue, the civilian leadership should hire (the liberal) Public Enemy Number One :
The Wall Street Journal has correctly suggested that only very large organizations like Bechtel and Halliburton know how to manage very large disasters. The military uses small platoons and big business knows how to use work-group platoons to accomplish a mission. And we’ve seen this before.
During the Year 2000 roll over we faced such a challenge: a disaster with a known timeline. Your Humble Blogger had the Y2K responsibility for Health and Human Resources, a $5 billion enterprise in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The boss, governor Gilmore, a former military intelligence officer, knew what we could and couldn’t do. So he hired the biggest IT consulting firms on the planet and bought their solutions packages. In my weekly staff meetings I had a dozen of the smartest, profit motivated experts in the business sitting in the room. They let me think I was in control at the head of the table. And maybe so. But these consultants wouldn’t let me, a mere bureaucrat make a mistake.
(Half of the world’s internet traffic passed through Virginia; my continued employment depended on no adverse incidents.)
So Virginia spent $215 million and nothing happened. Nothing crashed. Except for that super-secret CIA satellite…and some defibrillators. Not my fault. No one died.
Louisiana’s Governor and New Orleans’ mayor Ray Nagin should hire Halliburton and leave the Big Easy for the big dogs.
Daimnation has more New Orleans urban legends.
ProfessorBainbridge.com also says disaster relief effort should be outsourced.
Fastcompany has rebuilding the Big Easy.