Critical success factors during acquisition and integrations

perspectives Jul 13, 2018

Read part one of this article here: Culture evolution during acquisitions, integrations and restructures

In less adaptive cultures, there can be an enormous amount of energy diverted into defensive or unhealthy activities due to the sense of fear, uncertainty, disempowerment and unfairness that can arise. To respond to these challenges requires a human-centred and purpose-centred approach that goes above and beyond standard integration activities.

A critical aspect of the work of culture practitioners and leaders is to provide an environment that can reduce the impediments that cause people to direct their energy towards protecting or resisting, and redirect this energy to helping to navigate the organisation through transformation.  The following are some of the most effective ways to do this that we have experienced.

Lead with Purpose



Ensure that the integration or transformation has a clear and compelling purpose and that this purpose benefits the stakeholders the organisation is serving (Customer, Community, World) AND that everyone is clear on WHY the acquisition or transformation is occurring

Move forward with an intention that is purely financial

Include the WHY in every discussion and conversation

Expect people to “just get it”

Establishing a baseline cultural aspiration and ways of working


  1. Establish a process to gain broad input into new ways of working



Ensure this includes aspects of pride points and effective culture for ALL parties implicated

Indoctrinate the new organisation in pre-existing values and behaviours. This is guaranteed to create cynicism about the genuineness of a shared journey


  1. Establish trust through honest and open communication and fair processes



Be genuinely transparent from the first communication about challenges and opportunities

Make generic statements of optimism without balancing with realism or with tangible, irrefutable benefits

Have an agreed set of protocols and ways of working for the integration teams, which models the desired future culture


  1. Establish meritocracy rituals and structures



Pay strong attention to the wise aspects of the dissenting voices

Just focus on meritocracy in filling positions – it may feel like tokenism rather than genuine concern for fair process, treatment  and outcomes in all matters

Move senior decision makers from existing responsibilities and relationships into new roles – fresh eyes and fresh relationships

Agree on principles of integrating before starting the process (unconscious bias research suggests better outcomes if this done)


Building the capacity to navigate the transformation
  1. Build awareness of unconscious biases and ways to mitigate these



Include activities and insights that help people see that we all have biases, and that awareness is essential to be able to manage these

Judge people or make biases wrong – it may drive people underground rather than allow space to transform them


  1. Create awareness for all stakeholders that people will have different emotions and reactions through change



Ensure pre-integration dialogue for ALL parties on what it means to go through integration from a human perspective

Treat this as just a compliance or training exercise – it may feel insincere and inauthentic

Share the possible challenges and what is going to be necessary to succeed through the change – leading self AND leading others

Encourage restorative practices as an essential ingredient in maintaining wellbeing and resilience

Establish a lived day-in, day-out consideration for people that establishes the emotional and ethical integrity of those leading the transformation


  1. Help people to see the journey and their role in it


Honour the legacies of the past and collectively weave a new narrative

Deeply embedding new ways of working

As the organisation begins to move forward it is critical to create engagement, take out the roadblocks and allow people to see and experience progress.  This means:

  • Move to action – inviting people to be part of the new organisation, and to take responsibility for being part of it
  • Address power imbalances with practical actions.  For example, allowing all voices to be heard (not just those who are closest to power brokers)
  • Elephant naming, taming and reframing
  • Explicitly consider the value of ‘cultural capital’, the intrinsic value held in the ways of working, individual capacities and speed of execution, from idea generation through to product and service distribution. This is also known as the adaptive capacity of the organisation
  • Regularly communicate genuine successes and progress

To reap the potential of significant transformation requires genuine commitment and investment to the human beings who are going through that process. The benefits when this occurs are a much greater level of buy-in and commitment, a greater level of retention of staff and accelerated productivity and innovation as people from all perspectives work together more effectively. These all lead to a stronger shareholder, customer and community value proposition.

If you’re a change leader or culture practitioner who would like to become more adaptive and courageous in guiding cultural evolution, consider joining our next Accredited Practitioner program. This is a 12-month journey starting in October 2018.

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