How Leaders Drive Alignment: Andy Mooney, CEO Fender

Posted on 17 June, 2019 by Ali Parnian
Leadership Series  by Ali Parnian
 Fender CEO Andy Mooney 5 Photo Credit - Henry Diltz (2)

Published June 8, 2019 in the Phoenix Business Journal

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with Andy Mooney, CEO of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Fender is  the world’s leading guitar and musical instruments manufacturer. This is what Andy, a CEO with over 20 years experience at Nike and 11 years experience at Disney had to say.


What does Alignment mean for you and why is it important?
It means everybody heading in the same direction in terms of execution. It is important because it is the only way you get execution.

When parts of your organization are misaligned, what do you see?

Well, we don't execute. It's that simple.

How do you drive alignment through your organization?

Process Management and communication. It's really just the blocking and tackling of processes such as staff meetings, Town Halls, large and small group presentations.

We have weekly staff meetings, quarterly town halls and every location has monthly business reviews. We also have a pretty robust process for the HR side of the business including annual Talent assessments and HR discussions during each of the quarterly business reviews.

How would someone in your organization know what's expected of them and how do you drive that accountability?

Everybody in the organization has KPIs that are set annually. It starts with the strategic planning process, then the budget process and all the way to the employee level.

Andy Mooney

What does culture mean to you?

It doesn’t mean anything. I don’t really buy into the notion that organizations have a culture. I don't even know where to begin to describe the culture of an organization. The bigger the organization gets, the more diverse the roster people in the organization gets. An organization needs to plan. Is culture, leadership or strategy the most challenging to drive?

Some define culture as how organizations agree to get things done. Is this a good definition?

To me that is a definition of a process and not a definition of culture.

Viewing culture as just another process within an organization, how do you standardize and drive processes around behaviors?

It is fundamental blocking and tackling. I spent 20 years at Nike and 11 years at Disney. I don't think either of those companies have a defined culture, but they have unbelievably well defined processes.

Can you give any advice on driving culture through a process?

I think even the use of the word culture is a distraction and misleading. What you're trying to do through Process Management is drive business execution.

What I have witnessed lacking in many companies is the blocking and tackling process management.

Process management is grossly undervalued in most companies. Nike is one of the best and we have brought over a lot of their processes, and to a lesser extent Disney’s processes, to Fender.

I have come across tons of companies that don’t have staff meetings, they don’t have a strategic planning process, they don't have a corporate calendar to drive discussions around the most important thing you have in your organization which is people. Those are the elements that drive business performance.

What is your perspective on leadership?

I think every leader should be obliged to have a point of view on the subject that's in the discussion. I have always encouraged people to come to the table with a point of view and to hear that view openly without any concern that it would be viewed negatively. It is also critical to walk out of any kind of strategy session or even a weekly staff meeting, once everybody's point of view is heard, with a clear decision on what you're going to do and then execute on it. One of my favorite phrases that I used to hear at Disney was public compliance and private defiance.

That type of behavior has to be brought to the surface immediately. That is unacceptable leadership behavior my view and luckily we don't we don't have any of that here, but there could be circumstances where one of the key players in your group is just not on the same page as everybody else and you know at that point it's actually in the best interest of that person to leave because they're not going to be happy.

When you come into a new company or a new role you can tell pretty quickly what the style of the previous leader was depending on what people say or don't say or even if they show up on time.

I think it  just comes down to creating a team environment where people are at ease to express their opinion on any of the subjects that come up in the strategic process or the  weekly operations process.

Do you have a leadership development program and if so what is the process that drives it?

We have the Fender Leadership Academy which focuses on leadership, change management, problem-solving, project management and business acumen competencies. In addition the process that sustains it is the regular conversation that goes on between the employee and the people they report to. That conversation about how they need to continue to develop and how we can help them develop is part of the normal review process.

Is there a certain tool you use to ensure people are being developed and know what their KPI is?

We have a tool called Tour Manager and it is for our KPIs which are both communicated to the employee and developed by the employee. This document is used as a conversation foundation between and employee and their manager and the communication goes both ways.

Do you have any sort of advice for a reader who is struggling with aligning their organization or executing the strategy?

They need to really have the processes in place to deliver the business results that they want to achieve and ensure that the key people in your organization are really on the same page as you or not.

Sometimes you need one-on-one conversations with your direct reports to really solicit  honest feedback about the strategic direction of the company. At that point you've either got to convince them that this is the way that we are going because this is the consensus amongst the team and we need everybody to be pulling in the same direction.

I find that the people who are engaged in the process of developing a strategic plan don’t have to be dragged onboard, as they were a part of making the plan and its their plan not my plan. It is also important to come in with a point of view of where the company needs to be headed.

Do you have an inspirational quote you would like to share?

My inspirational quote is by Leo Fender and it is “Artists are angels, our job is to give them wings to fly.”

We adopted this as the vision statement of our company and I like it because it is the most eloquent way of explaining to every employee what we do.

Ali Parnian is the president of Execute to Win, a business writer and leadership coach. He can be reached at ali.parnian@etw.com

This entry was posted in Insights, Leadership, Culture, development