Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

A Theory of Culture-Switching: Leadership and Red Tape during Hurricane Katrina

The U.S. Department of Defense's initial response to Hurricane Katrina was slowed by an agency culture that imposed red tape to limit engagement in crisis response and thus maintain autonomy. DOD leaders altered the response by committing to another cultural assumption widely shared within the agency: a "can-do" approach to achieving difficult goals regardless of obstacles. The case illustrates how different organizational cultural assumptions interact with red tape to foster either inertia or a proactive response.

Additional Info

  • Volume or issue no.: La Follette School Working Paper No. 2011-018 is forthcoming in Public Administration
  • Author(s): Donald Moynihan