People and Management Processes
A key feature of H-D’s turnaround during the 1980s was the quest for a new relationship
between management and employees. Following the management buyout, H-D’s new
management team systematically rethought management–employee relationships, employee
responsibilities, and organizational structure. The result was a transformation in employee
commitment and job satisfaction. “What other company has employees who tattoo the company
name on their bodies? Or offers not just a job but a lifestyle?” observed an assembly-line worker
at Harley’s Milwaukee plant. Harley has a no lay-off policy, 12 weeks of paid maternity leave,
and unlimited sick days for staffers.
The process of management innovation is a continuing one. When Harley’s new Northland
Plant went on-line in Kansas City in January 1998, the plant’s management structure and
working methods reflected the company’s desire to make further advances in employee
commitment and self-management. “I’m not aware of anybody anywhere doing anything that
emulates this,” said plant chief Karl Eberle.13 In contrast to the traditional layout of Harley’s
other plants, the Northland Plant does not have a management space that oversees floor
production from a glassed-in office upstairs. Instead, the plant manager and other administrators
work in a “bullpen area” on the floor and in the center of the 330,000 square-foot building.
And they all say they love working for a company that is so well known, not only in Wisconsin but around the world. "People are excited about working with a company that is so cool to be associated with," Branger says.