Thoughts on post merger integration

I found 4 major fish on the plate each time in all post merger integrations that I led.

1) The impact of corporate cultural diversity on the merger.

2) The differences in national and ethnic cultures involved in the merger

3) The “change of power” political dynamic on the part of the acquired,  and the need to stabilize and align an effective power structure.

4) The competence of managers handling the complex labour of integration of units, processes and people.

While it is very lucrative to do many cross culture seminars in the early PMI phase, this not the way to start. It is even more lucrative to pretend to “blend” or even “change” corporate cultures to create a “new culture”. Lucrative, but not too effective.

I see that the most effective interventions were those that focused on the following  key drivers of post-merger success.

1-Lowering the level of post merger negative politics.

Realigning the “power dynamic” is a major PMI consulting task, which is beynd the scope of this particular post. I will relate to it in a later post.

2-Ensuring the appropriate staffing of skilled managers driving the integration on the ground.

Managerial competence is critical. This includes cross cultural competence, yet this cross cultural competence is only part of a huge bag of tricks that the integrating managers and teams need

3-Creating quality team work at the top.

Mergers can only to be good if they are good at the top. Cross cultural training must happen, and it will be  meaningful  to the degree that it is factored into the teamwork of the top team and other teams. So the focus must be on team effectiveness, not cultural training per se.

As far as the “creation of a new corporate culture” is concerned, I see this endeavour  as “snake oil”. No one knows how to do it well, and it happens on its own. We are midwives in this process.

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8 thoughts on “Thoughts on post merger integration

  1. I always enjoy your perspective and am intrigued to learn more of changing the power dynamic, especially as leaders come and go and cultures, including dual cultures in mergers remains persistently. ~ D

  2. Agree to most points, as this insight is from the post-mortem. What about due diligence on culture before attempting merger, so that competent managers are powered by the blessings of a mindful team?

  3. Very good! Tough one is where you realize that different cultures are not just different countries of origin but are sometimes the particulars culture of the historic work environment and norm.

  4. Allon,

    Excellent comments – as usual.

    And, as always, provided provided “rough” – direct and raw. It reminds me of the Turner rendition of the song “Proud Mary” in which she sings,

    “Y’ know, every now and then
    I think you might like to hear something from us
    Nice and easy
    But there’s just one thing
    You see we never ever do nothing
    Nice and easy
    We always do it nice and rough
    So we’re gonna take the beginning of this song
    And do it easy
    Then we’re gonna do the finish rough
    This is the way we do “proud mary” ”

    Allon, in my mind, you subscribe to Turner’s view: “we never do nothing nice and easy – we always do it nice and rough” 😉

    To your great thoughts I would add external stakeholders; especially AKA “clients” and/or “customers”.

    This body seems to be forgotten – pushed into an assumptive belief that they will adjust.

    Not necessarily so!

    A central issue is trust. Stakeholders trust the brand of the merging entity they have built a relationship. Now that relationship is changing.


    Drive On!

  5. Allon,

    I believe you have the experience to appreciate this.

    I was playing my favorite mind engrosser – World of Tanks.

    In one particular battle, I rounded a curve in a ravine and encountered three enemy tanks (I was alone.). There were two “heavies” and one “light” tank. I was in a medium tank. The two heavies planted and took turns hitting me, each taking great pains to keep my “tracked” (hitting my tracks so I could not maneuver. (From your military days, I think you know that a huge part of a tanks power comes from its maneuvers.) The light tank rushed past me – understanding my rate of turret rotation was not fast enough to hit it and also understanding the other two tanks had my attention. The light tank hit me in the rear and, between the three of them, knocked me out.

    This comes to mind in this thread because, in a sense, the three enemy tanks formed a merged culture in that encounter battle. There was no discussion, just a quickly formulated goal to destroy me. Each had the knowledge and ability to formulate a working strategy. And they formulated an informal culture that involved trust, e.g. the light tank trusted the other two tanks would stay despite my return shots to them and, equally, that they would play smart enough to remain alive.

    In so doing, they were able to form a merged organization and bring their individual power to bear for great results.

    I know this is a bit of stretch but I feel more than I can put into words.


    Drive on!

    • Ed, great response to Allon’s thought provoking post. There’s so much meaning packed in to your analogy of the three enemy tanks in your computer game. I’m particularly interested in your comment: “the three enemy tanks formed a merged culture in that encounter battle. There was no discussion, just a quickly formulated goal … Each had the knowledge and ability to formulate a working strategy”. Concepts of ‘self organising’ and implicit knowledge and know-how come to mind which I see as linked to Allon’s comment on attempts to create new corporate culture i.e. “no one knows how to do it and it happens on its own”

      Great thoughts from both of you – thanks

  6. So in light of Ed’s clever analogy and Paulines comments I came upon this..

    (please note the video towards the end and the comment..)

    They’re (siphonophores) unique colonial structure begs the question: what is an individual? Do we consider each part of the siphonophore an individual? Or is the entire colony itself form an individual? A great illustrative analogy is provided in this video:

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