Two key business units of a leading Silicon Valley software firm were merged to harness the value of combined complementary capabilities and deliver a unified approach to client service and quality. It was also decided that one of the two incumbent unit heads would lead the new combined organization. Two particularly challenging aspects of this case were that one unit was seen as more dominant and better resourced pre-merger. Second, the business could not afford any interruptions, loss of speed or dilution of quality during the transition. Flawless execution and highly effective change management were top priorities.
As a result of our initial diagnostic work, three key issues became apparent. First, the rationale and desired outcomes of the merger were not sufficiently clear to leaders beyond the inner circle who worked on the merger. This created different versions of “reality” that could potentially divide colleagues into warring factions and diminish the anticipated benefits of merging. Second, both units had best practices that could create greater value for clients if combined effectively. However, the fear of one unit taking over the other risked both units’ willingness to openly collaborate. Finally, leadership from both units realized they would need to be explicit about integrating two aspects of their organizations that are often overlooked: the leadership model and the culture.
With our support the new leader of the combined organization moved quickly to put a few things in place: a clearly defined role for the integration team, an integration team composed of leaders from both units, and a road-map for the integration developed by the team. These actions served as a forcing function for leaders from both units to come together on a new, unified leadership approach and culture. The 2-year integration road map enabled leaders and managers at all levels to articulate the business case for the merger, explain how the post-merger changes would be managed, and clarify what would and would not change in the new organization.
The post-merger activities of the leadership team were transformed from an ad hoc approach to a well-defined plan. Critical factors in merging two organizations were addressed proactively and perpetual fire fighting was avoided. The leadership team was viewed as being very aligned according to colleague surveys a year later and stakeholders saw the merger as a success. The unit delivered on its objectives of increasing its capacity with no reductions in quality or service to clients. The leader strengthened her capabilities to lead future mergers.