Best “Back of a Business Card” Ever, Seen at #HIMSS


I was at the annual HIMSS  Conference yesterday, as a guest of the software company FormFast, giving short 10-minute talks about Lean Healthcare to audiences at their booth. It's fair to say that it's 10x harder to give a succinct 10-minute Lean intro talk than it is to give a 60-minute overview. There's a lot you'd like to cover, but time constraints force you to keep it simple, especially for IT folks who are generally very new to Lean.

I met a lot of interesting people though. Those most knowledgable about Lean came from the military – Air Force, Army, or D.O.D. medicine. That was a clear trend. And one of them gave me the best business card ever.

A medical informatics officer from a major military hospital gave me a card which had the following printed on the back:

This quote wasn't on there because of Lean – he said he has had it printed on the back of his card for a very long time. But it completely fits with Lean and he showed it to me because I had talked about that phrase during my overview talk.

Even if you teach people all of the Lean tools and Lean management mindsets, it doesn't mean anything if people don't want to change. When you have the right environment for Lean, the comfort of “but we've always done it that way!” gets turns turned into “why do we have to keep doing it that way?”

The willingness to question the status quo and the willingness to find a better way…. that's the important thing. The rest is just details.

Before you can get people to come to consensus on what the new process should be, you have to get consensus that things NEED to change and that things CAN change.

I'm glad the military seems to have the right leadership to make Lean Six Sigma happen.

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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. That was a good one. I need to get something catchy on my business card. That way if I drop it I don’t have to worry about only having a fifty-fifty chance of it getting noticed and picked up.

  2. This reminds me of the post a couple of months ago on the best short definition of Lean and the discussion that followed. This seems like a much better method of sparking someone interest and could lead to a more engaging discussion on Lean rather than attempting to define Lean in one short statement.

  3. Hi Mark – Sorry I missed you at HIMSS. I saw that booth but you weren’t there at the time. FYI – my client has several Lean PI Teams that all wear buttons that say “Because We’ve Always Done It That Way” with a big X through it. They use it to reinforce each other in meetings when people start saying “yes…but” or “it depends”. It is a very effective way to hold your team members accountable to thinking differently about workflow.

    • HIPAA often seems to be used as a ready excuse for things that people just didn’t want to do anyway. Same often goes for Joint Commission or other excuses.

      Yes, there are real HIPAA concerns to be mindful of, but your comment struck a nerve with me, John. Thanks for your comment.


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