One aspect of this was to change the semiadversarial relationship management had with the unions. The big breakthrough in the relationship was identifying the areas we agreed on, like quality, customer service, and profitability. That turned out to be about 95 percent of the issues. In the past, we had concentrated on what we disagreed about - like seniority, which is important to a union, but not to management.

In the process, we also asked individuals their personal goals, so we could link these with those of Harley.

The first attempt at Joint Visioning actually collapsed from too much bureaucracy. We tried to create this parallel advisory system separate from management and the unions, and that created confusion. The lesson was to work within your current structure.

American Way: How does the current relationship with your unions differ from the situation at most firms?
Bleustein:
It's evolved, and at times we've reverted to old ways, but in the mid-'90s we did something very different. We approached the internationals and told them we wanted to share decision-making, to have them as full partners in the business.

We went back at the issues again, but this time we avoided some of the mistakes we'd made before. We signed a historic agreement about how to work together cooperatively, to include them in decision-making in virtually every aspect of the business. The IAM [International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers] and PACE [Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical, & Energy Workers International Union] have enlightened leaders who recognize the benefits of linking the futures of management and labor inextricably together.

American Way: How does decision-making with the unions actually work?