In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, McKinsey provided pro bono support to help that country manage both the immediate response and long-term reconstruction. In the course of our efforts with the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) already working in health care in Haiti before the quake—on which a disproportionate response burden fell due to the incapacity of Haiti’s state institutions—we witnessed firsthand the changes in management, process, and networks required in the transition from “business as usual” to disaster response. That experience offered broader lessons for all organizations that either have to respond rapidly to major unexpected changes in demand and supply or must quickly set up supply chain operations in emerging economies.
This article discusses the seven principles we derived from the intersection of our research on supply chain best practices and the Haiti experience, which are:
- Set up a war room with a clearly defined command-and-control structure;
- Focus relentlessly on reducing complexity;
- Invest heavily in last-mile logistics;
- Establish structured processes to synchronize supply and demand;
- Proactively manage offers and donations;
- Establish a system to gather and disseminate intelligence; and
- Keep an eye on emerging talent.
These simple best-practice supply chain principles can mean the difference between success and failure when natural disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina) and human-made disasters (such as acts of terrorism) unexpectedly turn local organizations into first responders and sometimes leaders of the longer-term response.