A few weeks after Hurricane Katrina, USA Today published this feature on Mississippi Power’s efforts to restore electricity on the Coast. At the time I was working for Congressman Chip Pickering and he made this article required reading for his staff. Here is an excerpt:
Melvin Wilson, 46, a marketing manager for Mississippi Power, was reviewing next year’s advertising campaign when Hurricane Katrina turned toward Mississippi.
A day later, the marketing man was “director of storm logistics,” responsible for feeding and housing 11,000 repairmen from 24 states and Canada.
He needed nurses, beds, meals, tetanus shots, laundry service, showers, toilets and much more — and he needed them now. And he needed double the quantities called for in the company’s “worst-case scenario.” And he needed them in places that had no electricity, no plumbing, no phones, few road signs and sporadic looting.
The fact that Wilson didn’t have a working phone was his tough luck: If he failed, men would go hungry, hospitals would stay dark and the suffering of his community would endure. “My day job did not prepare me for this,” says Wilson, his voice choked with emotion, recalling the burden of having 11,000 mouths to feed.
Let it be told: Wilson got the job done. So did his colleagues. And how they restored power in just 12 days is one of the great modern crisis-management stories.
Read the full article at USA Today online: The little company that could. I didn’t even include the best parts.
The feature listed four key elements of the company’s success, all of which show why this private company was able to achieve their goals ahead of schedule, while the government was struggling to organize a school bus convoy out of New Orleans.
1) A can-do corporate culture.
2) Clear lines of responsibility.
3) Decentralized decision-making.
4) Company procedures were less important than the ability to improvise.
The article also listed six lessons learned.
Lesson 1: Think ahead — A good forecast pays off
Lesson 2: Be prepared — Back up your backup plans
Lesson 3: Teamwork — How to get help when you need it
Lesson 4: Be clever — Seek breakthrough solutions
Lesson 5: Set high goals — Hard work and pride pay off
Lesson 6: Measure results
There are hundreds of great stories from Mississippi’s response to Hurricane Katrina, and this is one of my favorites.