Top 5 Management Lessons from the Chennai Relief Efforts


Chennai in India experienced Rains in Dec 2015 which turned out to be the Global Climate Disaster of 2015. Chennai is home to 6+ million people, the fourth largest Indian city and houses possibly the largest Automotive sector in India along with the second largest IT sector. The story is perhaps the largest volunteer undertaking seen globally, erasing away all purported divisions amongst the common folk. One could see the emergence of a new social order which exposed the current crumbling social systems, giving rise to the most potent weapon in our hands – HOPE.

I attempt to provide the few management lessons which are relevant for all organizations. Read on…

  1. Volunteer-ism  works: Volunteers were the stars of the relief efforts and very effective in all aspects of the efforts. Needless to say, encouraging volunteer-ism will be an effective workplace model than rigid employee structures.
  2. Make Technology your Business Backbone:  Everyone involved used Technology – Social, Mobile, Analytics, whatever mattered. It was appropriate, free, open sourced, crowd sourced. Technology not just for the sake of technology. And it worked. Where and When it mattered.
  3. Have a Common Humanistic Goal:  People rallied around a single goal of Rescue and then Relief efforts. It was to save a City of 6+ million people. Plain and simple as that, though the efforts were much more complex to achieve that goal. Think if your goals are For Profits or For Social Good.
  4. Encourage Leadership in all forms: Teams were led by common folks who decided to lead. No one was promoted or elected. No one was interviewed by a committee. Leaders led by example, got their hands dirty. Leaders were members in other teams as well. Age, Education, Certificates, background were definitely not a factor to lead. Think if you need results or you need management oversight.
  5. Allow natural Team formation: Teams had experts, coordinators, fund raisers and they naturally got together -each playing to their strengths. sometimes playing multiple roles. Think if your investments in Happy workplaces are just a bunch of forms and bean bags or do you need to facilitate natural human behavior.

Obviously there are many lessons to be learnt, many to be followed. This was to provide a high level overview on some of the key lessons.

To get a better flavor of our work, pls visit the group – TN Flood Relief Supplies: . If you want to know more on how to help, pls write to me at I am also happy to share details on the work done and how technology was used in the efforts.

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