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Morethan a motorcycle: the leadership journey at Harley-Davidson by Rich Teerlink and Lee Ozley, Harvard Business School Press, 2000, 278p. $24.95
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An organisation that manages itself, where authority and responsibility are diffused into the appropriate reaches, where individuals share a commitment to making an organisation that fulfils a joint vision, where ownership is shared and felt at all levels across 5000+ employees–sounds like Utopia, doesn’t it? This thought-provoking book provides insights into how one of the most famous motorcycle companies in the world has come close to reaching this ideal state in the late 1990s.

However, that this is not a ‘how-to’book. Quite the opposite in fact as the authors explicitly disagree with the notion that there is one best way to transform an organisation. What this book suggests instead is that for the process of transformation to succeed, a long-term and sustained commitment from the top management is essential. As the authors acknowledge, making major changes during a crisis is much easier than once the crisis has passed. In the case of Harley-Davidson (HD), the company had already recovered substantially from the crisis situation that had existed just a few years earlier, and the top management under CEO Rich Teerlink can certainly take substantial credit for attempting a post-crisis comprehensive transformation that would put HD on a different trajectory altogether. Ironically, though perhaps not surprisingly, top-down initiatives are required to initiate and sustain the move away from a top-down system.

About the journal
JournalIndian Institute of Management Bangalore
Open AccessNo