"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…”

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
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. 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. 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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