Day 8: The Simulator, Cranky Al’s and huddles

My day began today with a ride on the simulator housed in the Harley-Davidson Motor Co. corporate office lobby area. It was quite the experience being at the helm of this massive machine and feeling the rush of being at the controls.

After that rush of adrenaline, I wanted to show my thanks and appreciation to the communications staff so Chris and I jetted off to grab Starbucks on the go and some donuts from a kitschy little place called Cranky Al’s. Two dozen donuts and coffee-in-hand, I ran up to the leadership meeting to learn m ore about priorities, happenings and events these communication professionals juggle every day.

Today I spent most of my time with Erin’s team of pro’s focusing on organization and leadership communication. That is to say that they focus on all things related to improving internal communication for the company by working closely with the leadership teams for human resources, IT, MotorClothes, parts and accessories, manufacturing, product development, legal, and finance. It is a big job and one that requires a constant stream of adjustment, continuous improvement and attention to employee impact. Erin was fantastic and accessible – setting up face-time for me with all of her main points across these various divisions and giving me a strong perspective on how they manage what matters most to leaders, systems and channel communications.

I found the organization and leadership communication group to be the most diverse inside the internal communication structure. The diversity lies in its depth and breadth of focus and reach – the varied audiences and levels of employees that are touched in their efforts. They truly impact all types and levels of employees with their initiatives – be it the temporary staff that come in for surge months (i.e. “casual”), the part-timers who are scheduled regularly on the manufacturing floors, full time employees of all levels of responsibility and all the way to the top executives across the organization.

What struck me most is the commitment to employee impact, measuring the success of communication efforts and a focus on safety, productivity and continuous improvement. The manufacturing side of this team was also fascinating – learning about how they communicate when many of the employees are without email – relying heavily on daily huddles, line-of-sight metrics boards and observation forms to ensure quality assurance.

Through my sessions with Erin’s team I also gained perspective on the value of Town Hall meetings, self assessments and peer assessments and how they ‘train the trainer’ on various tools, techniques and processes. The way they utilize each other and internal resources to share knowledge, assist in quality improvements and create a culture that embraces feedback and continual improvement was both refreshing and encouraging. I was glad to see this evolution from my days in corporate America – a time when busyness outweighed valuable feedback and achieving bottom line projections overshadowed the importance of taking a temperature of employee morale.

Like any vibrant and active team, this group too has challenges and barriers; opportunities for growth and improvement. As an outsider looking in, I saw some opportunities where they can bridge the gaps between non-technical communication tactics and tactile metrics boards while improving employee retention and leadership communication processes. I will be sharing those thoughts in my final report to them on all that was learned. It is an impressive web of communication structures to manage and measure.

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