The Culture Merger
– Taking the time to integrate cultures the right way
Corporations go through cycles of growth and retrenching, what I call corporate yo-yo dieting. Companies that expand continually are companies that grow fat. Then they’re forced to diet, or downsize in “corp” speak, until they can grow again and reengineer (a new body in ninety days!), merge and acquire other companies (weightlifting and muscle training) until the cycle starts anew, and they’re forced to reduce again (lose twenty pounds in six weeks!).
In a Nutshell
Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures are great indicators of a company’s performance: The better performing company obviously takes over one that’s been underperforming; or, two equally-footed companies might join forces to take on bigger business. Either way, whenever there’s a merger, acquisition or a joint venture on the horizon, it spells a period of intense activity and dramatic change in the existing landscape.
And, like any kind of change, it doesn’t sit well with the people in both the organizations. In fact, for many employees and managers, a merger could signal a time when their personal goals and ambitions are disrupted. Or, more traumatically, they could lose their jobs in the “integration” process that follows a merger. In fact, about 30 percent of employees risk losing their jobs when their company enters into a merger or acquisition within the same industry.
The first few months after a merger are the both crucial and painful because that’s when people from both sides learn to work alongside each other. Very often, there are clashes of perspectives or confusion in the way things are done. There might be other cultural and language-based barriers that make working together much more difficult. Finally, there may be new policies and politics to keep in mind; vast differences in culture to bridge; and new clueless managers to report to.
In short, people need to overcome their existing biases and learn to work with each other even though they don’t really want to. While it’s not exactly a walk in the park, the tough times ushered in by a merger can be converted into both teaching and learning moments.