Getting Home

Lean Enterprise Institute (2019)

When the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina receded around New Orleans, they revealed unimaginable destruction and a traditional disaster recovery process that was Byzantine, costly, and far too slow for the victims who just wanted to get home.

Getting Home is the inspiring story of a defense lawyer and a school teacher who left their careers to rebuild homes for desperate survivors but wound up reconstructing the entire process for rebuilding after disasters. Authors Liz McCartney and Zack Rosenburg describe how SBP, the disaster relief nonprofit they founded, partnered with Toyota to apply the lean principles of the Toyota Production System to rebuild homes and lives following hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods throughout the U.S. and its territories.

For lean thinkers, this story offers a fresh look at lean tools being used in non-traditional settings. With a short-term volunteer workforce, a layer of middle management that turns over every 10 months, and constantly shifting sources of income, SBP seemed like it could never escape a constant cycle of emergencies and triumphs. Using lean tools, however, Liz and Zack got their work processes under control and found the time to think deeply about the nature of disasters and rebuilding and found themselves with a clearer mission.

The book also details an innovative, 9-step blueprint for how private industry, relief agencies, volunteers, and all levels of government can work together to dramatically shrink the time between when disasters hit and victims get home in a prompt, efficient, and predictable way.