100 Lamest Excuses for Not Innovating… or Not Embracing Lean


Today, I'll simply point you to a blog post by Mitch Ditkoff called “Top 100 Lamest Excuses for Not Innovating.” Many, if not all of these could apply to not improving a process, not embracing Lean, not doing “kaizen” each day.

The Top 3 certainly apply:

1. I don't have the time.
2. I can't get the funding.
3. My boss will never go for it.

“I don't have the time” seems to be the main reason, or excuse, given in healthcare. Staff and managers know there is waste and processes are broken, but they can't break the cycle of being too busy to improve… so things get worse. As with many of these excuses, you can ask about and look for the root cause of the excuse. How do you free up time? Find a way…

“I can't get the funding” is ironic, since Lean shouldn't require a lot of spending… or if you do hire a consultant, the ROI should be pretty immediate if you've picked the right problem.

Ditkoff uses a tactic I've used with teams — instead of saying why you can't do something, be focused on how you CAN make it happen. There's usually a way if you have a positive can-do attitude. What other items from Ditkoff's list are most relevant to the problems you're facing?

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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. These are great (even though he repeated the funding excuse at #2 and #81, but maybe that was intentional because it’s always used as an excuse). I ran out of fingers and toes counting the ones that I’ve heard.

    Here’s one that I heard and I swear I thought my jaw could actually be seen bouncing off the floor. I’ll set the scene:

    I was called in to a small, privately held shop that – how can I best describe it…? Let’s just say I was amazed that the local fire marshal hadn’t ordered the building closed. The owner/GM was concerned about cash flow, not recognizing that it was staring him in the face in the form of RM, WIP, and FG stacked everywhere!

    When I asked him about changing his business model to one that would be considered Lean he actually said, and I quote, “Oh we do lean when we need to.” :::slam::: goes my jaw off the floor.

    Needless to say I never did end up working with these folks, and the fire marshal must be his brother-in-law because the company is still in business!
    .-= Tom Southworth ´s last blog ..The 800lb Gorilla =-.

  2. Full disclosure, folks — I’m the guy that wrote the original 100 Lamest Excuses for Not Innovating post. Glad to see the health care world picking up on it. Speaking of which (guerilla marketing moment alert!) — we work with health care companies who are committed to raising the bar for innovation. Click the link for more..

  3. Another one would be that there is not enough benefits for the level of effort. I belong to a very successful organization that has remarkable profitability, high employee and patient satisfaction, and good clinical outcomes. Are we perfect? Far from and never will be close. Are we better than the lean healthcare organizations that have been working on this for 7 years. I think resoundingly yes in most areas. Will they pass us up someday? Maybe. Should we be doing lean? Maybe not.

  4. To Anoynmous – what’s the secret sauce at your organization then?

    I’m a huge fan of “lean,” obviously but my primary goal in life is improving quality and safety and helping build strong healthcare organizations with engaged employees and clinicians. If there’s a way to do that other than Lean, I’m all ears.

  5. Since I know all the readers of this blog are highly dedicated to improving their organization by apply various lean methodologies, I feel especially inspired to share the lyrics to the “Gotta Have a Process Blues” — a song I wrote (and performed with Face the Music) for a GE Black Belt conference a few years ago. Hey, we all have to maintain a healthy sense of humor as we dive into the murky waters of attempting to have an impact on our various organizations. Enjoy!


  6. Mark,

    I wasn’t thinking about a “secret sauce” but you make a great point – if someone has a better way please share so that we can all learn. I was wondering why Anonymous isn’t sure if his or her organization “should…be doing Lean?” My reply would be, why not?

    I get this from other non-healthcare organizations who are also very successful in their fields. When challenged about Lean I tell them to throw out the standard defintions of the term and toss the preconceived notions about Lean and CI. I tell people that “Lean”, “Continuous Improvement” or whatever you want (or don’t want) to call it really boils down to 4 basic points (for me, anyway):

    It’s about doing things 1) safer, 2) easier, 3) better and 4) economically.

    So, even if an organization is truly at the top of their game and are leaps and bounds ahead of their competition like Anonymous’ organization, who wouldn’t want to try to make things safer, easier, better and more economical? I sure would and I hope that everyone else would, too.
    .-= Tom Southworth ´s last blog ..Could the iPad be the next great business tool? =-.

  7. Tom – you raise a great point that the sharing is important. As Jim Womack wrote about in his last e-letter (his last few, really):


    We need to move beyond just copying one company (Toyota). Healthcare companies shouldn’t copy ThedaCare or copy Virginia Mason (and I certainly mean no disrespect to them).

    How do we do “community PDCA” (as Jim called it) where we learn from others but, more importantly, conduct experiments to see what works — then sharing our experiences.

    We can’t copy blindly, but we shouldn’t all have to completely re-invent the wheel either.

  8. Hey Mark,

    Been away for a while, good to be back.

    Similar to your thoughts, I’ve often used the following in my initial training sessions with leaders and kaizen teams: How do we change our perspective from “we can’t because…” to “what would we have to do…”

    Just simply making that statement and taking the first “we can’t because…” thought and driving it into “what would we have to do…” is intensely powerful. It really generates the change necessary. Lean tools are easy, its the concepts and theory – those things that DRIVE continuous improvement and respect for people – that are difficult to take root.

    For what its worth – you don’t have to call it or identify it as “lean”, but EVERY business should be focused on continuous improvement and respect for people (defined as the 4 “customers”). Complacency breeds GM-like catastrophy. Some day it will hit, no matter how big you are or how much money you ‘reportedly’ make.

  9. I think we’ve taken management by objective to a highly successful level and that is where the pain of lean comes in. The short term (2-5 years) risk and pain of attempting lean in an organization successfully addicted to management by objective and command and control may not be worth the effort from the perspective of an employee’s half life (career).

    I think it would be much easier in a failing or at least a desperate organization.

  10. To Anon – you’re right that lean won’t be compatible with a command-and-control environment. I wish you and your organization continued success, but I’d have to wonder what what point you hit the wall with c-and-c.



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