HUFFINGTON POST
09/25/2012 08:42 am ET Updated Nov 25, 2012

Small-Business Lessons From Harley-Davidson's Turnaround

This weekend, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how Harley-Davidson turned itself around using "lean" manufacturing strategies. Lean, or just-in-time, manufacturing is the Toyota production system, which started with W. Edwards Deming and his work with statistical quality control. Whenever I see this kind of article about a large company, I think about how the thoughts and principles can be applied to the smaller companies I work with.

As I read this one, three things occurred to me.

1. The idea behind lean is to create capacity -- not to reduce employee headcount. In this case, Harley-Davidson reduced its headcount by more than 1,000 people using lean techniques. Harley-Davidson probably can do this just once. If it continues to use lean strategies to reduce headcount, it will see employee enthusiasm for the program wane.

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