Considering a Merger? Three Cultural Alignments You Must Get Right

Published December 3, 2018


CultureLeading OrganizationsVision

One of the greatest tests a leader will ever face is when the team’s culture is suddenly, sometimes violently, shaken up.

You might call these “cultural tremors” and they can strike when the tectonic plates of the team’s culture are shifted. When that happens, the leader must quickly exercise the ability to read the changing situation and respond to this new reality.

Everyone on the team must agree on where the team is headed and what everyone is working towards.

David Livermore, best-selling author and social scientist in global leadership, calls this cultural intelligence.

At the 2018 Global Leadership Summit, Livermore defined cultural intelligence as, “The capability to work effectively in culturally diverse situations.”

And you don’t need to visit a foreign country to encounter a culturally diverse situation. Your team culture can undergo a sudden shift anytime you hire new staff, when you bring on temporary help, or when you reassign roles and responsibilities. Or, as I discovered years ago, you can face the potential for seismic cultural tremors when you merge two teams together.

Several years ago, the Willow Creek Association established a Canadian organization, which soon found an ally in another organization called The Leadership Centre. I was on the staff of The Leadership Centre. So closely aligned were our respective ministries that the two boards soon realized it would make sense to merge into a single entity.

The potential for cultural tremors to begin rumbling was very real.

According to a KPMG study, 83 percent of mergers fail, and yet this merger in Canada became wildly successful. Why? Ultimately, the success of this merger—bringing together two completely separate teams and organizations—was because of heightened cultural intelligence.

Specifically, those leading the merger process avoided the pitfall of cultural tremors by paying close attention to 3 vital cultural alignments. And when you begin to sense cultural tremors rumbling on your own team, you need to pay attention to these same alignments:

1. Team goals must be crystal clear and fully aligned

Everyone on the team must agree on where the team is headed and what everyone is working towards.

2. Team strategies must be consistent

If one part of the organization is pulling left while another part is pulling right, the team won’t get anywhere.

Nothing will create cracks in team unity faster than misalignment on team values.

3. Team values must be shared and embraced

Nothing will create cracks in team unity faster than misalignment on team values.

Because those leading our merger process took such care to ensure alignment on goals, strategies and values, the cultural tremors of the merger were avoided, and the combined organization thrived.

You could be facing your own cultural tremors at any moment. Anytime a new team member is added or whenever two teams are brought together to work on a joint project, the potential is there for at least a cultural tremor.

So, learn to keep your leadership finger on the pulse of these three alignments. Otherwise those cultural tremors could turn into a full-blown cultural earthquake.

About the Author
Scott Cochrane

Scott Cochrane

Vice President of International

Global Leadership Network

Scott Cochrane serves as Vice President of International at the Global Leadership Network. An insightful and genuine leader, he travels the globe mentoring international teams. Prior to joining the GLN, he was the executive pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Kelowna, British Columbia, and provided leadership to the Global Leadership Network Canada.