Project Management Lessons From Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav and Ike

On August 29, 2005 hurricane Katrina, a category 5 storm, raced across the Gulf of Mexico and created landfall in New Orleans, Louisiana. When it was in excess of, levees had been breached, eighty per cent of the metropolis was flooded, 1,500 persons had died, and assets damage exceeded $80 billion.

It was the costliest natural disaster in US record.

Then, three many years later on, on September 1, 2008 the town was threatened all over again. Hurricane Gustav, a group 3 storm, was racing towards New Orleans.

But this time the White House, FEMA, state and area organizations were being determine to set the management lessons discovered from Katrina to work.

The planning and cleanup of Katrina had suffered from a fully ineffective organizational construction. Absence of coordination among a selection of businesses, all of them with ambiguous boundaries of authority and duty, prevented anything at all from getting carried out. It was forms at its worst, from the White Dwelling to the metropolis officers in New Orleans.

But Gustav was various. The lessons realized from Katrina served to orchestrate an orderly system of evacuation which commenced Saturday August 30, 2008 when Town of New Orleans officers requested everyone to depart by the next day.

There was a bit of more than exaggeration when Mayor C. Ray Nagin warned that “this is the mom of all storms, and I am not confident we have viewed everything like it,” but this was tempered by formal forecasts from the Nationwide Hurricane Centre suggesting a somewhat significantly less serious storm.

The citizens of New Orleans, even so, did not will need much coaxing. With the memory of Katrina however vivid, the exodus from New Orleans was quick and comprehensive.

The storm, fortuitously, did not make a direct hit on New Orleans and in its aftermath a lot of assumed that the intense marketing campaign to evacuate the metropolis was overdone.

Then on September 13, 2008 one more important hurricane, Ike, a group 2 storm, approached Galveston Texas. The storm surge, envisioned to be about 20 ft (when it arrived the surge was among 10 to 12 ft) promised to entirely inundate the city. Warnings to evacuate were sounded well in progress of the storm, but this time, according to a report in the New York Times, 20,000 residents in a city of 57,000 refused.

Why did so number of evacuate with Katrina bearing down on New Orleans in 2005, so several evacuate New Orleans in advance of Gustav in 2008, and so several leave prior to Ike created landfall in 2008?

There are, of class several motives, but a single that stands out and 1 that accounts for numerous project failures, stands out.

Recency Outcome. The aid necessary to plan and execute the evacuation, collectively with the willingness of citizens to cooperate with authorities, can be similar to a effectively known behavioral notion termed the “Recency Effect.” We can interpret it in this way. When there have been no modern hurricanes, people today are additional inclined to dismiss the hazard of an impending storm. Even when warned, quite a few will not listen.

Why? Due to the fact we tend to place most of our emphasis on current occasions, providing considerably less and less emphasis to situations as they fade into the past.

With the recollections of Katrina nonetheless vivid, the recency result underscored the warnings issued by the Mayor and the Nationwide Hurricane Center. As the risk from Gustav turned obvious, the purchase to evacuate was made. Inhabitants, remembering the movie images of the devastation and dying from Katrina, heeded these warnings and remaining.

Then, as Ike approached Galveston, and inhabitants mirrored on the tv pictures of people fleeing New Orleans as Gustav approached, the recency result worked in the opposite course, considering that the evacuation of New Orleans just months prior to appeared so needless and overdone.

What lesson was Realized? Although a lot of corporations fail to study from failures, 1 summary is that New Orleans did find out from Katrina and that they have been improved prepared to cope with Gustav levees had been fixed, communication among the businesses was improved, traces of authority have been evidently recognized.

But, a quite fascinating result below is that the evidence from Gustav and Ike confirms a incredibly fundamental systematic bias that frequently impacts the way we initiate, plan, execute, and watch initiatives. This bias, the recency outcome, describes why NASA unsuccessful to look into when pieces of foam insulation broke absent from the propellant tanks on every single shuttle flight ahead of the Columbia disaster. It describes why you must do your ideal work just in advance of an annual efficiency evaluation, it assists to demonstrate why Normal Motors held to a strategy of producing rewarding gas guzzlers, and it aids to make clear why people resist evacuation just right after a hurricane occurs in which small problems is performed.

Good selection makers know that they need to have to be mindful not to overemphasize recent activities but to judiciously use all of the knowledge available to them. George Santayana reported it this way over a hundred several years ago “people who ignore historical past are doomed to repeat it”.