Challenges to HPWO:
One Harley-Davidson Engineer's Perspective

Livelyhood Interviews a Harley-Davidson Engineer

LIVELYHOOD: How does the process of interacting with the workers in the decision process make your job different?

PHYLLIS BATTLE: It makes it different because…you have eighteen to twenty different opinions of how something should be done so you have to work with each person--or you work with a group and you come to what we call a consensus… therefore our decisions take a long time to make.

LIVELYHOOD: Do you think this is something that all engineers should do?

BATTLE: No, everyone's not cut out to work in this type of environment. The reason I say that is because engineer, techno-nerds, not anything against engineers--I'm one--we tend to like 'the known.' We like to be definitive, we like to get things done. Here there is a lag-time in getting things done. You really have to work at persuading people to buy into your ideas and you have to approach it in the right way that it's not seeming like you're throwing something on someone…

LIVELYHOOD: What's the right way to approach someone?

BATTLE: …Let's take for instance if you're going to increase the line speed then you have to tell people why you're going to increase the line speed and why you want to divide the work the way you're going to divide it. Say you might want to change some work from one station to another, or you might want to add some work to a station and most of the time that's not comfortable when you add people to their station. You take things away from their stations so you have to go to them with data showing them how this will impact the line, how this would improve the efficiency and that way I think people react more to data than you just going and say, Okay, we're going to change this and not having any data behind that.

LIVELYHOOD: Is that a difficult part of your job?

BATTLE: It's a little tough because what happens, or what's happening now--we're a new company and we have new employees and this is new for everybody. It's new for salaried employees, it's new for the hourly employees and we're learning, we're learning as we go.

LIVELYHOOD: What's the difference between an hourly and salaried employee at Harley?

BATTLE: In the partnership here at Harley we are supposed to be all working together for the same common goals and there is no difference between how an hourly person is treated versus what a salaried person is treated and that's the way we operate. However, there are times when an hourly person and a salaried person--sometimes me as a salaried person I feel that I have no rights. And that's just my opinion... It feels like the hourly are more listened to than I am as a salaried person and I feel that I don't get the same type of opportunities, if you will, that the hourly employees do get.

LIVELYHOOD: What advice would you give to an engineer about to take up the same work style as Harley has?

BATTLE: My precursor would be: Be willing to listen, be open to the suggestions, be able to work with people--any type of person that there might be. Anywhere from the plant manager to our assembly line workers. Everybody's treated the same so you have to look at everybody the same, and be willing to listen and to take feedback and to take input because that's one of the ways we operate.

What do you think? Next»

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Challenges to HPWO On LeadershipLearn More About HPWO

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