OD Application: Harley-Davidson’s Plant Run by Work Teams Case Study

Harley-Davidson is the company with the prolonged history which started in 1903. The history of the company’s development is characterized by the periods of successes and failures because of the company’s orientation to producing high-quality expensive motorcycles interesting for the narrow audience (Brown, 2010, p. 295; Harley-Davidson, 1999).

During a long period of time, the company’s organization was based on the principle of the strong leadership. Nevertheless, Harley-Davidson changed the approach to the corporate culture and organization in 1998, while building the Harley-Davidson plant in Kansas City.

The Harley-Davidson Kansas City plant is characterized by the focus on empowering employees and developing the natural work groups in 8 to 15 members who work to achieve the company’s goals without references to the leaders’ rules and regulations (Brown, 2010, p. 295). The idea to develop the successful plant based on the principle of natural work groups can be discussed as rather realistic, if all the aspects of this unique structure and organization are stated and fixed in detail.

This approach can work effectively because every employee belonging to the team works to contribute to the company’s goal; every employee is empowered to make decisions and discuss them with the other team members; such important issues as schedules, strategies, and budgets are controlled by the teams; all the employees share the same information because of the slight differences in their statuses and positions; the open communication between all the team members is possible; and the employees share the same responsibilities while orienting to completing the company’s common goal (Brown, 2010, p. 295).

Thus, the plant’s organization is based on the idea of the team cohesion which can provide a lot of benefits for the company and contribute to the significant increases in the employees’ motivation and productivity.

However, this type of structure can be associated with many problems, if the shift from the team interests to the individual interests is realized. From this point, the self-managed work teams can work effectively till the members of the teams become focused on the individual contribution to the work of the team and to the group achievements (Harley-Davidson, USA, 2014). The team members can also observe the problems in communication which can lead to conflicts.

Thus, the employees can become focused on their individual role in the process, orient to pursuing individual goals, concentrate on the realization of the personal ambitions, and begin to demonstrate their leader’s qualities. For instance, conflicts can be observed during the decision making process because the decision should be made with references to the vision of the majority.

That is why, definite improvements to affect the organizational structure based on the natural work groups should be implemented at the Harley-Davidson Kansas City plant. It is important to state clearly the functions and responsibilities of the Plant Leadership Group in order to avoid the conflicts between the group members which can depend on the individual ambitions and career plans. Furthermore, all the corporate information should be shared between the employees equally.

The reward system should work equally in relation to all the working teams, depending on their productivity. It is also possible to improve the performance appraisal and reward systems to add to the employees’ motivation. Moreover, the plant’s employees should be trained to see the priority of the team goals as the path to the company’s high achievements.

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Brown, D. (2010). An experiential approach to organization development. Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Harley-Davidson: Company history and background. (1999). Retrieved from https://www.h-dsn.com/genbus/PublicDocServlet?docID=18&docExt=p

Harley-Davidson, USA. (2014). Retrieved from web.