Client Corner with Fender
By Jeff Meneely
Vice President, Global Logistics at Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
Changing culture is the organizational equivalent of climbing Everest. It is a deliberate, difficult process that requires commitment, focus, and a willingness to strip away all but the critical behaviors that will enable success. One would not even think about climbing Everest without an entire team of experts and oracles: physicians, dieticians, physical trainers, mountaineering guides, interaction with previous successful climbers, and a team Sherpas would all be required. If these experts aren’t working as a team, it can turn into individuals spewing their latest point of views without listening to others. (CultureSync Editor’s note: sounds a lot like Stage 3!)
Sound familiar? The same organizational behavior is often in play when attempting to build and develop teams. Everyone is an expert, few seem to get your vision, and even fewer still are willing to support it. This is the exact situation I found when I joined Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Historically, we are an effort-based culture, which means that effort tends to be valued over results. In an organization where trying hard is valued, rather than the outcome of said effort, the cultural currency is emotion. Once the litmus test of data, facts, and outcomes are applied, the cultural emotion kicks in and impedes or even stops a cultural transition.
Moving forward from this point requires three critical leadership aspects. First, the transition from an effort-based culture to a results-based culture is messy. One needs thick skin and an unwavering belief that the juice is worth the squeeze. Lacking full commitment to the process will only result in a full loss of leadership credibility when the inevitable pull back occurs. Think Thelma and Louise – if you are not willing to be in the car at the end of the movie, don’t start the process.
Second, a leader needs to realize that the movement can’t be solely top down or bottoms up. Too often one focus or the other is used, which creates a culture where walls and a roof exist, but no foundation is present. The outcome? No lasting, meaningful change can exist without trust and empowerment (bottom up) and a shift in leadership values (top down) happening in sync. Leadership values and behaviors must transition to the new expectation at the same time the rest of the team begins to acknowledge trust and demonstrate empowerment.
Lastly, leading a transition of meaningful culture change requires a realistic definition of success. Without a realistic definition of success, a leader cannot formulate a meaningful plan, assess leadership behaviors and performance, identify process gaps, or even determine if traction is happening. In a culture transition, it is important to understand that the initial key metrics are behavioral and not financial. The financial results that everyone wonders about will be a by-product of the behavioral shift. This will be gut-check time for the senior leader. Standing in the gap and deflecting the pressure for financial results, which creates the buffer of space the team needs to grow, requires the will called out earlier.
The Fender Global Logistics transition is still in process, and will be for quite some time. Our team of experts and oracles include the team at CultureSync. Their expertise is world-class, and they are adept in helping move teams through the different phases of the journey. Most importantly, they help tie the theory of culture change with the tactical execution process required for success. If you are considering climbing your own mountain, I highly recommend starting your planning discussions with a member of their team.