Harley Davidson embodies a culture of continuous improvement (CI) in all that they do from the products to the dealers to the operations and employee development. On Day 2 I was exposed to their CI in action at several meetings around quarterly earnings reports and leadership updates. I was the Director of Marketing for an international educational travel company between 2003-05 – a publicly traded company. I sat through dozens of investor calls, staff meetings and leadership rah-rah sessions with employees from all levels. It was always the same show with different numbers and PowerPoint slides and leadership doing their best to “connect” with their workers. Most of the time it was effective – boosted morale or made at least a few stand-out individuals feel valued. But at other times it fell a bit flat, felt somewhat forced and left many confused about meaning or how the information impacted them personally or their work product.
Harley Davidson’s approach was unique – first vetting the information through senior leadership for a no-surprises opportunity for questions and points of clarity via webinar before the three top executives stand in front of a much larger group of employees in a town hall-style gathering. Within two weeks unit leaders and supervisors are expected to hold individual town hall-style meetings with their employees so they can discuss how the information directly impacts their function and the role they can play in meeting defined objectives.
A banner in the main auditorium where the town hall meeting took place reads “One Company. One Team. One Direction” – a motto that clearly represents the internal culture of Harley Davidson – one that seeks to foster unity, solid brand and messaging, transparency in reporting and solidarity in business processes. Out of a room of more than 100 individuals I saw only a handful of individuals not wearing Harley Davidson Motorclothes – all of them uniquely styled and branded in top quality and design. Aside from key spirit days at WSU, I have never seen such ownership and pride from employees who literally wear the brand on their backs. And honestly, what a cool brand it is – can’t wait to buy some Motorclothes of my own and join in on this daily practice.
At the close of day 2 I have some great takeaways – areas of opportunity where I can make an impact, as well as areas I will benefit from most so I can take what is learned and apply it to curriculum. Some highlights of impact areas include exploring executive dashboard integration, Intranet redesign support in architecture and metrics, alternative options for efficient email delivery and tracking and internal communication measurement. Key areas where I will benefit include investor relations and earnings process, communication strategies across regions with considerations to language and cultural impacts and the new era of crisis communications with the advent of the critical role of reputation management.
On day 3 I am spending time with the corporate reputation management team – learning more about media relations out of corporate communications, investor relations and opportunities for learning more about active thought leaders and influencers and providing an outsiders perspective on sentiment with regard to active media coverage in the day following the quarterly report.