The essential considerations behind effective integration of organisations are the same be they new acquisitions, existing operating companies within a global group or departments within a company.
The level of challenge to deliver an effective post-integration organisation can however vary significantly for a number reasons including the motivation for the changes; integration of a new acquisition to stimulate growth and maximise synergies can be a very different proposition to integrating companies or departments as part of a cost cutting exercise.
But whatever the reason for integration a prime goal is always to deliver an effective organisation.
And one of the most important factors influencing the effectiveness of an organisation is the level of TRUST between its members. All actions during an integration should therefore, as far as possible, be aimed at building trust. The following guidelines can help maintain trust.
- Objectives and benefits – make them clear
Before anything is done it is essential that the objectives and anticipated benefits of the integration are very clear.
- Communication – lots of it
It’s a cliché because its true for all change; we almost never communicate enough. It’s worth considering writing a communication policy; this doesn’t have to be anything too esoteric but needs to discuss areas such as the types of communications (from memos, to team talks to informal chats over coffee), communication routes (e.g. through the management structure or direct to all employees) and the frequency of communication.
And consider getting a number of your team involved in putting this together to get them on board and delivering a consistent message – particularly in the informal chats over a coffee where we know 95% of communication happens.
To keep your management team on board, ensure that initial communications go through the management structure – nothing will alienate middle management more than being informed of significant changes at the same time as all the people they manage – they need time and guidance on how to deal with the inevitable raft of questions they’ll have to field.
- Ugliness – get it all out
Integration can often involve some tough steps such as making redundancies and moving offices. If this is the case, then it is essential that these steps are acknowledged as soon as possible because if the management team know or suspect that these steps might be a possibility then you can guarantee that many of the work force will suspect the same. Any delay, or worse denial, of these steps will burn trust rapidly.
Let people express their concerns. Don’t avoid meetings or other forms of contact because you suspect they may be difficult – it will only make matters worse and more explosive. If you chair or are part of the management team in meetings you need to be prepared to face some aggression; when people get scared they will often display defensive aggression first.
If you can create an environment where people can get through this stage of aggression, then they will often express their underlying fears and anxieties. With these fears acknowledged you stand a much better chance of people working together to support each other and, very importantly, generate more creative ideas for implementing the changes as beneficially as possible.
- Authority – redistribute fairly
In both the temporary integration team and new organisational management team make sure you distribute authority fairly and avoid cronyism. It can be tempting to put the people that you know and have worked with for years into positions of responsibility in the new teams but you will lose significant amounts of trust if you do so. This aspect is discussed in more detail in one of my previous posts.
- Culture/values – maintain them
It is important that you maintain your organisation’s culture and values during integration as these periods of change can have a significant impact on behaviour. This is done primarily through your demonstrated behaviour and can be very challenging as emotions may be running high which can make it difficult for us to be aware of what we’re doing.
If you’re chairing a meeting, for example, and attendees are expressing their concerns aggressively you need to decide what behaviour to allow and where to draw the line. You may, for example allow someone to talk about their fear of losing their job very energetically but cut them off if they start a personal attack on you or anyone else.
- Support – get some
Managing these changes can be challenging and you are likely to have impulses that you cannot act on. You must not, for example, respond in kind to aggression – it will not help you achieve your goal. You may shut someone up during a meeting if you have authority over them but they will simply continue to undermine your efforts after the meeting.
So you may need to hold onto a lot of unhelpful impulses and find some constructive way of managing them. This could simply involve talking to friends but in complex situations it may be worth considering the support of a coach who has ideally had some experience of what you are going through.
If you do not find a constructive way of managing your feelings in these situations you risk less positive solutions such as venting them on your family or friends or using alcohol.
You may also consider getting support in various aspects of the integration such as chairing meetings so that you can focus more on what is going on.
If this guidance is followed and embedded into the integration process and the vision/mission/strategy of the integrated organisation is clear, then the concrete steps including the following will be a lot easier to implement:
- Transfer employment contracts
- Transfer assets and properties
- Novate contracts
- Inform clients and suppliers
- Development of a new organisational structure possibly including integration of some of similar functional departments
- Selection of existing or development new organisational processes and systems
If this guidance is followed, then even the most difficult cost cutting integration with redundancies and moving premises can result in a very effective organisation.
Have you had experience of organisational integration or are you planning to do so? If you have any thoughts or comments, please share below or send me a LinkedIn connection request.
No clear direction, management imposing ever tighter controls, increasingly disengaged work force, high levels of politics, stress and sickness and/or poor productivity?
If you recognise any of these symptoms, then organisational development (OD) could probably help.
OD is a holistic approach to improving organisational effectiveness that focuses on the alignment of organisational direction, often expressed in a vision, mission, strategy or purpose, with organisational design and culture.
Direction / Purpose – where are we heading and maybe why?
Inspirational, clear and well communicated direction / purpose play an important part in guiding and prioritising organisational effort.
Design – what tools do we need to get there?
Organisational design includes its structure, processes and systems. These are all interconnected and therefore need to be considered as a whole to understand how they support achievement of the vision/strategy.
Culture/values – how do we need to behave to get there?
The existing culture and values of organisations determine how its people behave in the delivery of services. This can be the most challenging aspect of organisations to understand and change.
Each component plays a vital part in organisational success and issues with any of them or misalignment between them can result in sub-optimal performance.
A highly innovative tech company based on the product leadership value discipline, for example, would probably benefit from flexible systems that support collaborative working and a relatively flat hierarchy with highly motivated self-directed work teams.
A company focused on operational excellence delivering a fixed range of services or products at minimum cost, on the other hand would probably require less flexible processes to minimise variability and a more compliance based culture to ensure that any changes to processes are carefully managed.
Misalignment or issues with any of the three components can generate numerous and complex symptoms. And as with all human groupings including families we can sometimes become blind to the dynamics within our organisations and therefore struggle to understand what is going on or find solutions.
Coming from outside your organisation OD practitioners can often have a much clearer view of what is going on and could be seen in medical terms as a GP, being able to make initial diagnoses and help rectify many issues. When more complex issues present themselves, then much like the medical world, referrals can be made to specialists; for issues related to culture/behaviour, for example, there are a number of specialist roles including organisational psychologists and coaches.
Have you experienced any issues that could have benefited from OD intervention or have you had experience of working with OD practitioners? If you have any thoughts or comments, please share below or send me a LinkedIn connection request.
Does it seem like you never have enough time to finish anything thoroughly? Every day your task list grows and if you dare to have a break you know the preparation and return will be manic.
There is no doubt that life seems to have become more demanding in the last few years and with the World Health Organisation predicting that depression will be the second largest burden on society by 2020 this trend is likely to continue.
But does it have to be that way? I’m sure most of us have asked ourselves that question and experienced moments of calm and satisfaction that give us hope that it doesn’t.
Many of us have probably made systems changes such as turning off email alerts and read about or attended time management training. These sorts of steps can certainly improve our productivity but often leave us feeling just as over worked as we were before the changes.
To make substantial changes to our experience one of the most important thing we can do is to spend some time and effort considering the possibility that we’re too busy because we want to be – we stay busy because we get something from it – we’re not just victims of circumstance. Because if that is the case then we can do something about it.
There seem to be numerous reasons for staying busy including the promise of reward, seeking approval and a defence against anxiety – staying busy to avoid our feelings.
The challenge in considering what’s driving us is that we may not be aware of some of our motivations – we’ve hidden them from ourselves because they disturb us for some reason. So we don’t know what we don’t know.
We may have an intellectual suspicion that something is going on if, for example, we notice that we keep ending up in similar situations with people even if we move or change partners or jobs.
If this is the case, we may need to consider enlisting the support of a coach or therapist to help us make the necessary paradigm shift.
Working in this way can result in a substantial change in behaviour but no matter how successful we will always have some level of unconscious behaviour. The impact of this can be minimised and managed with techniques such as mindfulness.
Once we have gained an understanding of what is driving us and we’ve taken steps to manage unhelpful impulses the next step is to look at what really matters to us. In organisational terms this could be embodied in a vision, values or strategy and provides a tool to focus and direct our efforts so that we don’t waste time and effort on tasks that aren’t aligned with what matters to us.
With these steps in place you should hopefully find that you spend more time in the present working on things that interest you, resulting in a more satisfying experience of life for you and, to some degree, those around you.
Have you experienced any of these steps or tried completely different approaches? If you have any thoughts or comments, please share below or send me a LinkedIn connection request.
With so many articles on the benefits of mindfulness for us and the organisations we’re part of I suspect many of us are left wondering if there is any substantial research backing up these claims.
This HBR article by Congleton, Holzel and Lazar provides some solid evidence for the claims.
The World Health Organisation estimates that depression will be second biggest health burden globally by 2020. We are therefore likely to hear a lot more about practices such as mindfulness that can help counter depression.
The acquisition and integration of organisations often generates great hope and anxiety. The way in which leadership is redistributed during this process can play a significant part in the perceived success or failure of the enterprise.
Samia Chreim’s paper provides important insights on the subject.