Schools Using the Harley-Davidson Effect

St. Peter's Lutheran School, Helenville, WI, 1906

There’s a really long article by management guru H. Donald Hopkins (Temple University) entitled “Using History for Strategic Problem-Solving: The Harley-Davidson Effect.” In it he tells of corporate CEOs solving problems such as employee moral or product direction simply by examining their own history. And because Hopkins champions Harley-Davidson, his thinking has become known as the Harley-Davidson Effect (although if you google this you’ll likely find more on the Harley-Davidson sound affects:-).

Anyway, while I’m getting through my part time master degree course, my latest project has been an online program for the Wisconsin Lutheran State Teachers’ Conference. I know, I know, associating church with business gives a lot of people the heebie jeebies. After all, it’s the Holy Spirit that works in us, not some business theory, right?

I agree.

But I also go by the conviction that much of our God-given earthly knowledge works really well for his heavenly purposes. The Harley-Davidson Effect is a perfect example.

The Wisconsin Ev. Lutheran Synod (WELS) schools have a strong history in Wisconsin and throughout the U.S. There are 337 schools nationwide, some of them dating back to the mid-1800s. They’re parochial in nature, yet they face the same problems of budget, integration and student-teacher ratio as does every other school. Nowadays congregations do a lot of strategizing and praying just to keep their school doors open.

This year the WLSTC chose “Your Statutes Are Our Heritage” as its conference theme, based on Psalm 119:111. For the program (click here to check it out), we used historical photos to help convey this message. We asked congregations to dig into their archives and, wow, did they do some digging! Not only did people send photos, they also included anecdotes of how their schools were started, what their classrooms were like a hundred years ago, and so many more fascinating stories.

Strategically or historically, however you want to look at them, these photos and stories are poignant reminders that schools have overcome many challenges. They’re proof of so many blessings throughout the generations. And they evoke a sense of pride in the educational work God has allowed them to do.

“Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart,” Psalm 119:111.

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