Interview with Workers:
What it's like at Harley-Davidson

Livelyhood Interviews Harley-Davidson Employees at the Factory

LIVELYHOOD: What motivated you come to work at Harley-Davidson?

CLARENCE McDANIEL: The High Powered Work Organization concept where every worker in each natural work group has a day-to-day say so in how the group functions, from parts requisition all the way down to vacation planning, educational training. We look at upcoming projects scheduling. We try to schedule our material. The manpower hours that it's gonna be, and whether it's a project that warrants overtime or what have you… We come together as a group, and we try to coordinate how we as mechanics and electricians would go about accomplishing the task.

We have a planning meeting within our group and that's held every morning at 7 o'clock. And if there are any issues, like someone needs to flex in their schedule to depart early or what have you, we make it known to the group at that time and everyone sees what the day-to-day schedule is like and if it's appropriate--if the group consensus is do it--it's no problem. And then he can take whatever time off he has to.

JANICE WHEELER: Our factory is very diverse. Being a woman is beside the point because I'm given the opportunity to do anything within our area, our natural work group, that I was hired in to do. I might ship all the supplies to take care of the assembly line. I might go to parts and accessories and work there for awhile. My skills encompass everything that we have to do and if I'm not fully trained in that area, it's taken care of. I've learned how to do everything within our entire area.

LIVELYHOOD: There are no supervisors at Harley Kansas City. What does that mean to you?

DARREN DILLARD: There's nobody over your back telling you, "Okay, you need to be doing this. You took an extra minute on your break," or something…it's nothing like that. You just work at your pace. You know what you gotta do. You know you gotta do it, so you just do it. Just a sense of freedom. It makes you feel like you're really a part of it. Since there are no supervisors, you're running it [the factory], so you gotta know the ins and outs of the business in order to run it, versus the other way when the supervisors are running it and you are just there.

LIVELYHOOD: What skills and perspective do you bring to your job?

DILLARD: Well, I feel that I bring a professional attitude and when somebody's down and they're not working up to their par, you know, I go and I talk to them, as a co-worker instead of a supervisor, and this kind of eases the mode and brings them around and just helps to bring them up. It makes the day go a lot smoother, better relations.

McDANIEL: I feel that your skills and abilities are respected. You are given the consideration that you are a craftsman in your field, you have some degree of expertise in the area and you're given the freedom to exercise that and that only motivates you to shine on assigned projects, to perform it to the best of your ability. So, in the traditional environment, I didn't experience that. People followed up and double checked on whatever you were assigned to do, but here they respect you. They give you an assignment and they believe in you enough you know, that you can carry it through to the best of your ability.

LIVELYHOOD: What do you personally get out of this way of running the plant?

McDANIEL: For once I finally have a personal input and say-so and my voice is heard. It's not a utopian environment. You're not gonna find that anywhere, but your voice is heard and we come together as a team and haggle or argue sometimes, but we can come to a sound decision in the long run. Throughout all the plant, the morale level is higher. I'm enthused about walking into my workday and that's a change for me. And you never know what to expect from day-to-day as far as the challenges are concerned.

WHEELER: I'm more inspired to do it because I know we're doing it as a group. I don't have someone shoving it down my throat. We all know what needs to be done and we all want to attain that goal with the highest quality possible if we can for this plant. Because it's our plant.

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