email: geoff@cultureofus.com

What Homer Simpson taught me about implementing Kaizen

Brainstorming and creative thinking is always aided when you add a new perspective, or ‘lense’, to the problem at hand. A common tool is Debono’s Six Thinking Hats that encourages lateral thinking, requiring people to put on a different ‘hat’ or take a different perspective on a given topic. Today I attended a workshop, focussed on how we can implement a common set of Kaizen tools across the organisation, utilising some creative thinking perspectives. The three perspectives on offer for this exercise were; Apple, Generation Y and Homer Simpson. Apple and Gen Y, may seem pretty straight forward, but how could you get anything serious out of a Homer Simpson perspective? Well here is the list we come up with and I will let you be the judge:

“Borrow” tools from Flanders

Why would Homer bother to make or buy his own tools, when he could ‘borrow’ someone elses, like Ned Flanders?

In organisations we often look to make, hone and refine our own toolkits – be that any sort of tools, including change management, project management, or Kaizen tools as in this case – yet in large organisations there is bound to be someone, somewhere with a tool kit that has proven to do the job just fine. So why not use theirs? Are your people that different? Really?

Support the path of least resistance

Homer has never been one for going out of his way to do anything, so why not just integrate the tools we want him to use into what ever he does?

If using the toolkit becomes so easy to adopt and part of the natural way of doing things, then you can not help but use it. Why would you resist using something that is just part of the natural flow and the way things get done?

Remove competing interests

Homer isn’t subtle and isn’t afraid to break things that frustrate him, if he is confused or annoyed by it, well chances are, it could get broken!

Why in organisations do we constantly confuse our people, by having multiple and competing tool sets for similar challenges? Focussing our people on the most practical and appropriate methodology (or toolset) to achieve what we want to in a consistent way, just seems like good old ‘Homer’ sense really.

Get others involved in doing the work

Homer is pretty lazy, why would he do something if he could get someone (Bart collecting grease) or something else (the drinking bird pressing the ‘Y’ key on the computer) to help him do the work?

Kaizen, like most things involving organisational change, really only works when people are empowered to make the changes themselves. Enlisting the people closest to the change to help make the change just seems logical really.

Leverage people with passion

Be assured if there is a cause in Springfield, Homer Simpson will be leading the charge, with blind passion and enthusiasm. Especially if there is beer involved (aka Homer the Beer Barron)!

Finding the people who have the passion for what we are trying to achieve in organisations is a great way to provide the energy required to implement change. Tools such as social network analysis, can help us to find people whom are the natural connectors, that have the skills and the enthusiasm required to generate peer acceptance of a change.

Failure is OK

“Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is….” I’m going to take some license here and cut off Homers tag line (never try) and offer the alternate view that ‘if we fail and learn, that is OK’.

When utilising Kaizen, or trying to implement any sort of good sustainable change, failure and refinement are two important ways to improve. It is amazing how much can be learnt from a good failure. Nobody sets out to fail, but the reality is not everything we do works. We just need to learn from it. Creating an organisation culture that embraces failures and learns from them, is key to creating more innovative and adaptive organisations.

We all knew Homer was a man of many talents, who knew he could offer such insight on organisational change?

Please feel free to comment below with some of your organisational change lessons from Homer Simpson.

*With thanks also to my table buddies, Micheal Fromberg and Peter Willoughby.

NB: The tools in the workshop were from a toolkit called: ‘What would X do?’ from Inventium.

Image: Via Leo! – Flickr