"FEMA Does Not Reward Innovation"

AP News | The Columbia Daily Tribune

How’s this for government bureaucracy? People got creative in trying to save money to restock the New Orleans aquarium by chartering a boat to go catch fish instead of buying them. The catch? FEMA don’t pay for that, they rather pay more because of their blessed regulations.

“It’s relatively typical that when Louisiana, or an applicant, finds a unique way to solve a problem that FEMA comes in and throws a flag and says, `No, you can’t do that,'” Smith said.

Local officials have complained that FEMA has applied the rules with maddening literal-mindedness…”

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Standardized work NOT should be about “maddening literal-mindedness” or “mindless conformity.” We have to leave room for flexibility and creativity, recognizing that changing the standardized work can be a good thing. FEMA has admitted some mistakes, but:

Bob Josephson, FEMA’s director of external affairs in Louisiana, was alerted to the case by The Associated Press and reviewed it recently. He suggested FEMA may have made a mistake, but did not promise quick resolution.

Quick resolution and response to ideas is key, and FEMA isn’t doing that. They certainly aren’t Lean (who is claiming they are?) It’s an interesting comparison between this and what the State of Iowa is doing to implement Lean principles. I wonder how they would handle the New Orleans situation?

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Chet Frame says

    Mark, I think you left out a “not” in your text. You say that “standard work should be a mindless…” I think you meant to say that “standard work should not…”

  2. Mark Graban says

    Oops! Thanks for catching that. Sorry for the defect in my post.

  3. Dean Bliss says

    It’s hard to read something like this without commenting. The apparent lack of leadership at FEMA, based on this article, is appalling, and the seeming “oops, I guess we messed up, oh, well” attitude makes me sad. This agency has a vital role in our country, and if the people running it can’t get the job done (political cronies or not), they should be out immediately, if not sooner.

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