After an acquisition, the organization caste system changes

An acquisition is not a tea party, especially if you happen to be on the acquired side. Beside the very few people who get a hefty payment for selling off the firm, the acquired team’s patricians  are often stripped of their status formally and informally, visibly and invisibly, physically and emotionally.

Patricians  of the acquired team have new masters, and these masters are not just the people in parallel positions of the dominant  company.

An acquired CFO (who is probably demoted to Business Unit Financial Officer)  does not only have to deal with his new boss, but also with the mindset of every finance employee who claims that “we bought you”, so do it our way. 

An acquired HR manager will see access to key figures blocked off; programs from the old company will be labelled legacy, and then killed off. The verbiage and lingo, titles and perk-management will be realigned with the ways of the new ruling caste.

Engineering management will force-feed new procedures and tools, hindering and crippling development efforts of the acquired company, even if the acquired company was purchased for its innovation.

Changes in the IT system will make life a nightmare for the acquired company, making it very hard to do the simplest things for months after months. 

In short the dominant caste of the acquired company is decimated, although there may be an OD violinist  playing a song in the background about “Merging Two Cultures into One”.

However, it does happen that people in the acquired company get enhanced status, far more than they had in the legacy company. For example-

If the acquiring company is Chinese or Israeli, Mandarin or Hebrew speakers in the legacy company will have more importance than it in the past.

If someone was extra cooperative in the due diligence process and spilled the beans about the weaknesses of the acquired company, these “turncoats”, so to speak, may be compensated with enhanced status.

And of course, key account managers of the acquired company get a “pass” into the new ruling class by dint of the relationships that they hold with legacy clients.

At the society level, caste dies very hard, if at all, in processes that last centuries. In organizations, death by caste reassignment happens quickly and thus, allows us to observe changes in the caste system at a galloping pace. Is all the above inevitable? I would say that the process is Darwinian, and the human effort can mitigate the pain by proper risk mitigation planning during the post merger integration phase, which takes up to six years.

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “After an acquisition, the organization caste system changes

  1. It my experience this is very true – a few superstares from the acquired company are embraced and drink the koolaid of the acquirer – the rest of the folks scramble for a while to see if they will hold their jobs, in time there is some shake out and the acquired company will pass along the culture.

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