Waste in the Stimulus Bill Process?


    I try to keep apolitical here, so I'm not necessarily looking for discussion of what might be viewed as “waste” (meaning wasteful spending) in the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” bill that the House just approved. There are plenty of good political sites for that (often clusters of like-minded folks on the left or the right without much debate). I guess the Lean Blog is a cluster of folks who like or agree with Lean principles, so I'll quit throwing stones.

    Hat tip to ReadTheStimulus.org for this. After the conference committee approved the bill that would come for a vote on Wednesday, I wanted to read parts of it, especially about healthcare. But the wording wasn't available online. Legislation apparently isn't written in a “wiki” format or even Google Documents, where it can be shared quickly and easily online.

    It took until late Thursday night to get it posted online. That's over 24 hours. Not very “Lean” (in terms of being fast) nor is it good for an informed public. Then, the Speaker's website, where you could download the documents, was crashed (apparently due to the interest and web traffic generated).

    The page where you can download the files is here.

    • 4 files
    • 100 MB of PDF downloads
    • 1419 pages

    I guess we don't expect our representatives to read what they're passing (unfortunately, there's precedent for this).

    The thing that made the groan the most was seeing that the PDFs were created by:

    1. Printing document
    2. Scanning document
    3. Posting PDF

    So it went: Digital –> Analog –> Worse form of Digital

    (UPDATE: The PDF file is actually text searchable… so either ReadTheStimulus was wrong or they uploaded a new file).

    That's too many steps. “Waste” in the Lean lingo. They couldn't have clicked “Save As PDF”? Would have been faster and easier… unless the goal was to make it hard to download and hard to read.

    This makes it impossible to search the PDFs, when they are created as graphics. Created from a Word document, a PDF can be searched by words.

    Again, so much for an informed electorate. We're in such a hurry to “pass something” because it's such a crisis.

    I'm reminded of Lean phrases:

    • “Go slow to go fast”
    • “Don't just do something, stand there!” (Dr. Deming, saying that sometimes no action is the best action)
    • “Do things right the first time.”

    I guess they don't apply in this setting.

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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. Thanks for being a good citizen. I’m trying to download Part A and it says 4 minutes. How much bandwidth is being used to download these huge files? Probably not as much bandwidth as is being used to watch mindless crap on YouTube.

    2. You say “do things right the first time”, what about having an 85% solution and applying PDCA? I thought that was also the Toyota way?

      The Sec of Treasury said they will make mistakes and the plan might have to be changed as they go.

      “We will have to try things we’ve never tried before,” he said. “We will make mistakes. We will go through periods in which things get worse and progress is uneven or interrupted.” “

      This sounds like every Lean implementation I’ve been a part of, that quote. Managers weren’t usually that up front about it!

    3. While we’re talking process, on Tuesday, they said we’d all have 48 hours to review before Congress voted… now that isn’t happening.

      Those on the left AND the right complained about the Patriot Act being rammed through.

      Seems like hypocrisy to ram this one through.

    4. Hi- OK, but delving into politics…

      The Speaker’s website is, I’m afraid, lying to the American public. She says:

      “Provides $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research, to evaluate the relative effectiveness of different health care services and treatment options. This research will improve the quality of care.”

      Quality of care? No. This research will save money by rationing care, particularly to older Americans.


      The gameplan is in Sen. Daschle’s book “Critical” and nothing is stopping because he’s a tax cheat, I mean honest-mistake maker.

      In the UK, “NICE” rations care by denying cancer treatment because it’s not cost effective. Seniors could not get eye surgery until they went blind in one eye. Waiting times have been horrendous (although they’re working on it).

      Daschle and the Democrats want a “Federal Health Board” where bureaucrats would make decisions (life and death decisions) much like the Federal Reserve does for interest rates.

      I think we should all be very fearful of this. Daschle even wrote his gameplan for sticking healthcare reform into a budget package… very sneaky and there’s no debate.

      If you’re a Lean thinker, this sort of “top down” management should scare the crap out of you.

    5. Talk about “hurry up and wait”.

      The President isn’t even signing the bill until Tuesday. He’s gallivanting around Chicago with the First Lady this weekend.

      Some “crisis.” I think we’ve been had.

      Why couldn’t they take longer to read the bill and vote Monday?


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