Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Article excerpt

In your enthusiasm for the new culture, beware of rejecting wholesale what went before.

Q: My company merged with a smaller but more dynamic one some months ago. Its culture is quite different to ours, which was pretty conventional. I find this attractive but my former colleagues are resistant to change. They're critical of me when I follow the new guidelines. But as I'm not yet accepted by my new colleagues, I'm feeling isolated.

A: It's interesting that more often than not, it's the culture of the smaller, younger company that triumphs over the larger, more established one in a merger - at least, in the service sector. Perhaps this is because the smaller player doesn't carry historical baggage, making it more flexible in the new working context; or, being more recently formed and perhaps with the founders still in place, the business is more focused and clearer on its aims and values.

Sometimes, this injection of energy is the real purpose of the merger. One of my previous assignments was to help the management of a new merger in which a small, successful advertising agency had been reversed into a failing, monolithic multinational. 'The problem is that we're different sorts of people,' confided the MD, one of the small agency's founders. 'We're hunter-gatherers; every piece of business we've got by going out and dragging it back to the cave. These people are farmers: they husband business that they've acquired through international realignment. They don't know the thrill of the chase.'

Of course, the reformulated agency needed both types of people. It had to find a way of overcoming mutual suspicion so that the differing talents of the two groups could be used to good effect, and to create a new identity that combined passion and commitment with consistency and relationship-building skills. There was an inevitable downsizing, with almost all the casualties coming from the multinational agency.The survivors were the ones who, like you, were attracted to a new, more energetic style of working. They realised that the old ways of doing things had become less effective and that adopting a different approach was key to survival.

Forming a new, compelling identity and letting go of what went before is an issue for all merged organisations. …

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