Saturday, January 16, 2010

Coordination and Collaboration, Logistics in Disaster Response, Business Schools

Although the New York Times has assembled a group of experts to comment on the Haiti disaster response, rescue, and recovery, the group has no logistics and operations research experts. However, it is precisely the latter type of experts that can assess what can be done in such crisis humanitarian operations and, interestingly, they can be found in business schools.

INSEAD, considered one of the top business schools in the world, has now released a video interview with Mr. Rolando Tomasini and Dr. Luk van Wassenhove, which provides a very knowledgable and balanced perspective of the crisis. Mr. Tomasini was one of the speakers at the humanitarian logistics conference that I organized and that was hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation. At the conference, he spoke on his joint work in the field with Professor van Wassenhove. Information on their book, Humanitarian Logistics, and our Fragile Networks book, can be found on the above conference website. You can also reference these books and several other ones on the topic of humanitarian supply chains here on

I have been writing about the crisis in Haiti and the lack of coordination and collaboration. What was/is needed (and as the above two researchers emphasize in their videocast) is centralization of the logistics operations as well as more careful scheduling and delivery of the critical needs supplies. Indeed, having the proper command and control in place, which, in this case, necessarily has to be by an outside body (politics aside) due to the destruction of many of the government bodies in Haiti, may have assisted in the delivery of the food, water, medicines, along with the personnel in a timely and more logical manner.

We are reading about doctors and medical personnel who are waiting for hours at the airport in Haiti for the medical supplies to arrive as well as for the vehicles to transport them to the wounded. The field of operations research, as a discipline, dates to World War II, and it has evolved into a knowledge base renowned for expertise in transportation, logistics, humanitarian operations included, and numerous many other applications. We need the command and control (and communications, of course) structure to succeed in a humanitarian operation and recovery on a massive scale. Then the additional hard work begins -- the reconstruction and development, which must be done with careful and well thought out, rigorous planning.