In today’s fast-paced business environment, there have been a large number of mergers, acquisitions and other forms of major organizational change. Lately, hardly a day goes by that yet another merger or acquisition has been announced in the news. These happen to large companies as well as small companies. The initial reasons for these mergers are generally to accomplish one or more of the following: increase productivity; take advantage of the strengths of each company; be stronger and more competitive; or, gain synergy not otherwise available had both companies remained independent.

It has been estimated that over 50% of these mergers do not achieve the benefits and goals that were initially planned! That is quite a statistic. Yet, organizations continue to jump on the merger bandwagon fully believing that they will achieve the stated goals. The same can be said for the combining of departments within an organization or the centralizing of like functions (such as finance, marketing, sales, purchasing, etc.) of commonly owned companies. These changes are designed to create or improve efficiency, save costs and take advantage of well designed processes, yet unforeseen circumstances and events cause disappointing results.

What then can be done to increase the chances of success of such an organizational change as described above? The following ten steps will help ensure the successful integration of merged organizations:

  1. Develop a crystal-clear mission and purpose of the new organization. Develop 3-month, 6-month and one-year goals of the new organization. These mission statements and goals should be so clear that it is virtually impossible for employees, management and customers to misunderstand the purpose. Define the expected culture and operating style of the new organization. Gain senior management commitment as to how they will evaluate the success of the new organization.
  2. Establish an integration team who is charged with developing plans, projects and tasks to ensure the successful completion of the integration. This team should be given the financial and time resources to accomplish this critical step in the process. Depending on the size and complexity of the integration, this could be a full-time assignment to some or all members of the team.
  3. Develop a communication process that will keep employees, management and customers informed of the progress of the integration. Accept the notion that there is no such thing as over-communication.
  4. Identify obstacles to success. Gather the implementation team for a brainstorming session that will flush out all the possible obstacles and issues. Then, with each obstacle clearly identified, develop action plans that will prevent the obstacle from even developing in the first place.
  5. Identify and define the processes of each of the merging units. Resolve to utilize the process which is truly the best without regard to where it comes from. Sometimes the best process actually comes from combining ideas from multiple sources.
  6. Make it a standard operating procedure to evaluate each decision against the stated mission of the newly merged organization as a test of the correctness of the decision. Evaluate the decision-making process against the desired culture the new organization has decided to create.
  7. Allow the staff to express their worries, fears and anxieties about the merger. Also allow them to express their ideas, suggestions and possible roles that they may be interested in assuming. People will be more committed and motivated to work harder if they feel as though they have been part of the solution.
  8. Define the competencies needed of the management team in the merged organization and work to assess current management against those competencies as quickly and as objectively as possible. If there are to be any staff changes, decide and communicate those changes as quickly as possible, but not later than three weeks after the merger has been announced.
  9. Identify some quick wins early in the integration process. Celebrate and publicize those wins to everyone as a means of boosting morale and enhancing productivity.
  10. Utilize positive communication styles such as providing honest feedback whenever possible, addressing rumors as soon as possible and avoiding the secret meetings whenever possible.