Strategic Management In Action

Strategic Management In Action


In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the southern American state of Louisiana and its neighborhoods. The detrimental effects of damage and suffering were significantly increased by organizational failures (Johnson, Whittington & Scholes 2011). In addition, leadership failures at the federal level such as FEMA, at the state level such as the ex-governor of Louisiana, and the city level such as the ex-New Orleans mayor, whereby they all transformed the disaster into unexpected human crisis (Grant 2012). The paper discusses the people who were responsible for the organizational failures during the response to Hurricane Katrina.

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At the national response of the disaster, effective management of disaster events needs a wide range coordination and organization of activities, as well as resources that meet the needs of the State and local government upon their request for assistance (Freeman 2010). Due to previous terrorists’ attempts, the US department of Homeland security (DHS) was formed to coordinate the response to Katrina. Strategic Management In ActionHowever, the department faced difficulties to coordinate all the information concerning the threats to terrorist. Thus, one of the terrorist hijackers occurred since the information about the culprits concerned had not reached the federal bureau of investigations (FBI). In order to seal the terrorist response loophole, the US government placed terrorism as the highest priority (Freeman 2010).

The move intended to improve the coordination activities in response to the possible terrorist threats. The government centralized the department by bringing various departments together under the able leadership of appointed governor, Pennsylvania (Johnson, Whittington & Scholes 2011). However, the two most important departments such as FBI and justice department remained independent. The new department for homeland security (DHS) comprised of about twenty two departments with thousands of employees. Among the major agencies that were centralized included immigration, customs, Narcotics, secret service and federal emergency management agency (FEMA), all integrated to fight against terrorism (Coulter 2012).

Total involvement

However, FEMA, the agency responsible for natural disaster response like hurricanes, rejected the reorganization because, since1993 it was directly represented within the president’s cabinet. Thus, there was an internal division within the new department of Homeland security as FEMA no longer had the direct cabinet-level representation, and hence FEMA effectiveness declined at it could not report the president directly (Robitaille 2002). The new created organization low priorities concerning response to natural disasters. In the planning of those events that could cause major fatalities in US in 2004, 12 out of 15 planning scenarios comprised of international terrorist group that only used nuclear weapons, and other imaginative possibilities, while only one planning strategy raised the issue of hurricane flooding threat in the southern city.

Therefore, terrorism issues attracted more attention of the budgetary allocations than response to natural disasters. Consequently, the resources intended for protection against natural disasters began to squeeze. Moreover, the retired secretary, Tom ridge, for homeland security was replaced by a former judge, Michael Chertoff.Strategic Management In Action The new leadership stripped off and reallocated the different FEMA functions to other parts of the organization, hence FEMA lost much of its funds from the operating budget. FEMA faced difficulties to get resources for the rehearsal response to the New Orleans hurricane situation, as a new organization denied providing the needed funds (Coulter 2012).

Effective communication

Before the hurricane Katrina had occurred, several days warning signal had been given by FEMA watch officer (Hill & Jones 2012). The New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin authorized the evacuation of the people from flood prone area. However, inadequate communication on when the hurricane would hit and its magnitude made the people be reluctant to evacuate. In addition, most of the people had no means of transport including the elderly who could be trapped without energy to resist in their homes.

When hurricane struck, people were still in New Orleans and FEMA’s planning for the State of Louisiana had limited means of transport to evacuate the people. Besides, FEMA was not locally represented with only having one officer at the city. Communication systems after flooding were destroyed leading to communication breakdown. The team of mayor Nagin broke into the depot store to steal the functioning communication systems, while the sole FEMA officer forcibly used the available helicopters to confirm the damage (Grant 2012.

Centralization and poor leadership

The (DHS) operations and guarding against panic, in Washington, insisted on verification of information through a secondary source before it was passed up the chain. The poor communications hindered the stated process to be fulfilled leading to a delay in the evacuation procedures. Moreover, during the evacuations, the aircrafts were delayed due to lack of air marshals that were needed by anti-terrorist regulations (Hamel, G. (2007).

The (DHS) had issued orders insisting that all the evacuees had to be security screened before boarding the planes, and it took eight hours to fly the security staff. The hurricane had the potential to cause the outbreak of mad cow disease, hence the food packs consignment from United Kingdom, were turned back for the fear of the stated disease. Michael Chertoff’s message in the press conference differed with the one that was released by the television reports. This portrayed the failure of FEMA, as well as the local agencies through various critics raised. Michael Brown. FEMA’s head resigned after facing heavy critics while Chertoff did not (Hamel, G. (2007).


The department of Homeland security failed to coordinate all the response activities during Katrina hurricane, even after it was reorganized.Strategic Management In Action The lack of effective communication due to poor initial planning for disaster response activities, as well as poor leadership within FEMA, centralized and contributed significantly to the failure of the organization (Grant and Jordan 2012). Moreover, removing FEMA from its initial cabinet representation, led to impartial functional involvement in disaster response within the newly created organization.

Therefore, FEMA priorities in disaster management were highly reduced leading to fewer resources both in terms of funds and humans (Hill & Jones 2012). Consequently, the disaster response activities became difficult to be executed by the organization concerned. Proper organization coordination of various departments and their activities, adequate planning, total involvement of all departments in decision making, effective communication and decentralization of powers within the organization might lead to the success of an organization(Johnson, Whittington & Scholes 2011).

List of References

Coulter, M. K. (2012) Strategic management in action.Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Freeman, R. E. (2010) Strategic management: a stakeholder approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Grant, R.M. (2012) Contemporary strategy analysis: Text and cases, 8th edition, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Grant, R.M. and Jordan, J. (2012) Foundations of strategy, Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley and Sons


Hamel, G. (2007). The future of management. [online] < 914> [Accessed Apr 28, 2014]

Hill, C. W. L., & Jones, G. R. (2012) Strategic Management. New York: Cengage Learning.

Johnson, G., Whittington, R., Scholes, K. (2011) Exploring Strategy: Text & Cases. London: FT Prentice Hall.

Robitaille, D. E. (2002) The management review handbook. Chicago: Paton Press.