Homer Simpson Does Some Kaizen at Home and a Gemba Walk at Work


Recently, while watching part of The Simpsons marathon that aired on FXX, I was inspired to write this post: “Proof That Nelson from The Simpsons is Not a Good Kaizen Coach.”

That led Simon from Germany to point out a different episode where it seems like Homer does a “gemba walk” at the nuclear power plant where he works:

Season 14 Episode 15

The description of the episode was:

Homer decides to try for a promotion at Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and suggests several ideas to Mr. Burns, all of which are rejected.

Sounds like many organizations we know or work in… all of the ideas or suggestions from employees being summarily rejected by the boss.

Homer attended a motivational self-help seminar, which leads to his sudden burst of enthusiasm.

From that episode…

At about 7:25 into the video, Homer does some Kaizen at home. Well OK, he doesn't call it that, but it seems like a small Kaizen improvement.

But, Homer installed a key hook on the wall for Marge.

Marge is thrilled Homer would make the effort, although it seemed that she thought throwing her keys in that green bowl had been just fine up until that point. It's not clear Homer was really solving a problem with his hook, at least from her perspective. But, had Marge been negative, Homer might not have tried again.

If Homer did this in a Kaizen program, I might coach Homer that it might have been better if Homer had first talked to Marge, to get her input. Then again, putting up the hook is a low-cost, low-risk change that would be easily reversed (by taking out the hook and patching and repainting the wall). A bias for action is OK… but it still would have been better to quickly get some input from Marge.

As we describe in Healthcare Kaizen, the five-step Kaizen process is:

  1. Find ideas
  2. Discuss them
  3. Implement (test) them
  4. Document them
  5. Share them

At work, Homer follows advice from the seminar guidebook he is reading, which includes personalizing your workplace (because depersonalized workplaces are lame). He replaces the “Swedish Bikini Team” poster with one for the “Swedish Efficiency Team:”

At 8:02, Homer's life improvement book says to “point out problems to your boss.”

So he goes on a bit of a “Gemba Walk” (again, not called that) to look for problems and ideas. Unfortunately, his book suggests he “tattle on the cattle,” which isn't very Kaizen-like.

He does find a number of safety problems, including a “safety shower” that shoots fire. Oops.


Homer then discovers that the coffee room, cream room, and stirrers room are three separate rooms that people have to walk between!

What a spaghetti diagram that would be… they're running, en masse, from the coffee room, to the cream room (at left), and then all the way back across to the right to the stirrer room.


There's Homer with his clipboard… acting like an old-school Industrial Engineer (or “the time study man“) it seems.

Later, Homer complains about a lack of recognition at work:

Homer says: “Mr. Burns has never given me a thumbs up or a ‘way to be' or a ‘you go girl'. He steps all over everyone who works for him and takes pleasure in making us feel small.”

We all want some encouragement for our ideas… that's why recognizing employees is so important in the Kaizen process. It builds more enthusiasm for Kaizen and keeps people energized.

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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.


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