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Organizational learnings after a merger and acquisition

If you’ve ever been employed by an organization that has either bought another company or has been bought, then there’s a good chance you have witnessed organizational culture meshing. I think of it as the company culture melting pot.  In some cases a purchased company is left alone as an independent business unit and may function outside the boundaries of most of its owning parent.  However, there could still be culture shifts in either company related to best practices and cultural norms of the other.

I’ve worked in organizations that have acquired other companies and I’ve worked in an organization that was acquired by another company.  I’ve witnessed and lived all types of cultural shifts as a result and I thought I’d share a few of my observations.

“Legacy” is redundant

The term “Legacy xxxxxx” is often used to designate a previous brand or company name. Sometimes we use it in systems speak to designate a system that pre-dates the current system.  As I think about it though, it’s really not needed as a prefix because in the context of conversation or written document the name/brand of the element it modifies is unique.  I won’t go so far as to say that legacy implies a fully negative feeling of the name/brand it precedes. But it’s often used in context to mean:

* That was then and it’s out dated

* We have to live with it

* That was the archaic way. Someday we’ll turn it off

Here’s the deal though. The historical elements in your organization whether company, process, or program are all now part of the existing portfolio of what makes your company unique. Sure the purchased company may not exist any longer, but you don’t need to say Legacy CompanyABC. CompanyABC itself will suffice and gives due respect to that name/brand for the value it holds in its historical context.

Bust silos with assignments that cover the entire portfolio

Nothing creates silos of thought and turf wars faster than keeping people assigned to specific programs and processes within previous companies. So if Joe worked on Program A at Company A and Bob worked on Program B at Company B then they’ll see each other somewhat as competitors in discussions about their respective programs. The way to relieve this organizational strain is to give them both responsibility over programs A and B. In this way, they will create work that is for the betterment of the organization and not their respective silo. Often times programs A and B will be redundant. The way to remove the protectionist feelings is to get the entire team involved in the entire portfolio. It’s good for career growth as employees are allowed to learn new areas and given increased responsibility.

Promote unique functions where they exist

Sometimes as organizations merge together there is a functional area in one company that didn’t exist or was outsourced in the other company. If the company leaders decide to keep that functional area in-house then promote that to the broader organization as one of the advantages of the newly combined company. So often employee morale is hit because redundant areas typically mean job losses as the new company looks for economies of scale. So where there is no redundancy, promote it and the benefits that group brings.