Hurricane Katrina Tropical Storm Isaac and Decision Making

 

Expert comment on how bad decision making in disaster response situations might be avoided Tropical Storm Isaac is hurtling towards New Orleans raising the terrifying possibility that the city could be hit again almost seven years to the day it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina which killed 1400 in the city and left tens of thousands more homeless.

Added on 28 August 2012 by Andrew Campbell

Hurricane Katrina Tropical Storm Isaac and Decision Making

Expert comment on how bad decision making in disaster response situations might be avoided

Tropical Storm Isaac is hurtling towards New Orleans raising the terrifying possibility that the city could be hit again almost seven years to the day it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina which killed 1400 in the city and left tens of thousands more homeless.

On the seventh anniversary Andrew Campbell Ashridge Strategic Management Centre (ASMC) director and researcher wonders whether we have learnt enough from Hurricane Katrina and other disasters. He reminds us that decision making processes need to take account of the fallibility of our brains.

Andrew Campbell said: “Brigadier Matthew Broderick was in charge of Homeland Security Operations Centre in Washington DC when Hurricane Katrina approached the Alabama coast in late August 2005. It was his department’s job to alert Secretary Chertoff head of Homeland Security the White House and the Interagency Incident Management Group whenever a homeland incident reached disaster status and required Federal involvement. But bad decision making led to a delayed response.”

“Matthew Broderick’s previous experiences misled him. The brain is a fallible instrument and we often find it difficult to correct our own errors. There are four sources of fallible judgments other than ignorance: misleading experiences misleading previous judgments conflicting self-interest and inappropriate attachments. Each of these creates emotional memories that can disrupt judgment. When one or other of these red flags is present there are four ways of strengthening the decision process – more data and experience more dialogue and challenge more governance from a higher authority more monitoring of outcomes so that bad decisions can be corrected quickly.

“Unfortunately Matthew Broderick’s reliance on previous experience and knowledge to guide major decisions was not unique. Tony Blair’s experiences in Sera Leone and Kosovo misled him when deciding to take Britain to war in Iraq. Jurgen Schrempp’s previous judgment that Mercedes needed to be a volume manufacturer influenced his decision as CEO of Daimler to buy Chrysler. Some of these disasters might have been avoided if these leaders had been supported by better decision processes. This involves identifying ‘sources of fallible judgment’ and then strengthening the process to reduce the risk of error.

Andrew Campbell is a Director of Ashridge Strategic Management Centre and a world-renowed expert on corporate strategy and organisation issues. Andrew directs research projects runs management programmes and advises client companies.