A customer-centric approach to culture integration puts the customer at the forefront of the transition and integration process. This helps to focus and unify the organisation by getting people to look at things from the outside in, ensuring that what they do makes sense and creates value for customers, not just them.
Being customer-centric helps to protect service standards, revenue, and profit, and ultimately provides a competitive edge that will enable growth ambitions to be met. Failing to make integration decisions with the customer top of mind has the opposite detrimental effect.
A customer-centric culture is arguably what makes the difference between being an ordinary organisation and an exceptional one. In mergers and acquisitions, prioritising people and developing a customer-centric ethos throughout the change journey will stack the odds in favour of the deal delivering on expectations.
Culture integration is a complex change process that requires a consistent framework and implementation plan. This M&A CULTURE Change Model can be used as a guide:
The key to any successful M&A is a well-planned and well-executed communication strategy that involves, informs, and inspires people to embrace the change. Clear, consistent, and constant communication is critical to help alleviate uncertainty, dispel rumours, convey decisions, share successes, and satiate people’s appetite for answers.
People need clarity and they want context. They want to know the reasons behind doing the deal.
Once they the understand the why, they can start to rationalise it. They’re looking to understand the new organisation’s reason for being, why both organisations exist together, beyond financial gain and to test whether they believe in it. They want to be inspired and clear on what business they’re in.
For a successful outcome, the positioning and politics that characterises most M&As must quickly make way for strong and aligned leadership. Whilst the CEO and senior leaders are responsible for effective direction setting, problem solving, and decision making, having a manager in charge of the integration effort with clear lines of authority is essential.
As bestselling author Jim Collins stated in his book Good to Great, “Leaders of great companies start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”
This advice could not be more relevant and important for organisations going through an acquisition or merger; for the senior leadership team, the integration team, and those in the frontline service and sales teams, in particular. They must work and behave in a way that reflects the defined organisational culture to support the vision.
The time taken to successfully integrate is key reason for M&A failure. A sense of urgency needs to prevail starting with sorting out the people issues. People will keep worrying about the “me issues,” not the business issues, until they get answers.
When making decisions on what actions to take, it is best to do something, not nothing. Leaders have to be prepared to make the tough decisions quickly and live by them or risk being judged indecisive, ineffective, and inadequate, adding to the fear and doubt that predominates. Continuously raising a feeling of urgency, and moving rapidly but not recklessly, is key to success.
Review and Revise the Plan
Having a well-conceived, clear, and compelling vision and strategies for the united organisation goes without saying. Having an integration plan that encompasses people and culture by design rather than by chance should also be standard M&A practice.
Define the critical success factors and focus people’s efforts by measuring and providing feedback on how things are tracking from an integration, operations, financial, systems, process, people, culture, and customer perspective. Summarise the value of the synergies captured and report on progress towards achieving the deal objectives and continually review and revise the plan.
Execute the plan and don’t let up. Operationalise new ways of working and keep aligning and refining to continuously improve. Review progress and hold people to account for outcomes.
Recognise, reward, and celebrate wins and positive results. Persevere until change sticks and the “new way” becomes business as usual. Embed integration capability into the organisation’s DNA so people are ready for the next deal.
To your success,
Australasia’s Authority on M&A Culture Integration