Building a Culture After Merging – How Great Managers Helped A Merged Council Create a More Effective Culture

Merging with another organisation means you have to develop a new culture. The more groups involved in the merger, the harder this becomes. Here are some tips to help you build a new culture after merging based on our work with one merged council.

Mergers happen often in the business world. Organisations combine forces with the aim of delivering a better service. That means they have to mesh their cultures together.

These mergers can also occur between government entities. For example, it’s not uncommon for the government to merge several councils together. This is especially the case if the merged councils previously served small areas. Bringing them together can save money.

However, building a culture after merging presents a lot of challenges. Each organisation has its own way of doing things. Each will also want to continue using its old ways. That’s often not possible. The merged organisation has new issues to tackle and its culture needs to reflect that.

Failing to merge the different types of group culture leads to problems, as one merged council discovered first hand.

Building a Culture After Merging – A Case Study

Our client didn’t even exist before 2004. However, a merger between multiple councils led to it coming into being. The council now represents a number of regions. 

The council oversees the needs of over 50,000 residents. It also operates with a great respect for the natural surroundings that make the location it oversees so desirable.

Unfortunately, the 2004 merger wasn’t the smoothest of operations. The council came to Great Managers to resolve a number of issues.

The Issues

Most mergers only involve a couple of organisations. But the creation of this council brought eight different councils together.

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That meant the new council had to reconcile eight different cultures. Clashes occur with even the simplest of mergers. With one as complex as this, it’s no surprise that organisational culture problems emerged.

The main issue was that each previous groups’ leadership was still stuck in their old ways. Nobody wanted to evolve to confront the new challenges the merged council presented. It was almost as though a group of warring tribes had to suddenly co-exist. Each felt like it had lost some of its status. None wanted to give up any ground.

This situation continued for almost a decade. The council made little progress and mistakes got made. One such mistake cost the council millions of dollars. It’s also something the council could have avoided with the right leadership structure.

Our client didn’t even have a set of values when they came to Great Managers. It was a merged council in disarray. We had the task of helping them to right the ship.

The Great Managers Solution

So many years of conflict had created an extremely negative culture at the council. It felt like each faction was at war with the rest. Despite the merger taking place in 2004, there wasn’t a sense of unity.

This was the first problem that we confronted. Through our training, the council began establishing more positive workplace behaviours.

The council also needed to establish a vision. Its people had no focus because a shared vision didn’t exist. We helped the council determine its mission and its values. We also helped its leadership discover the importance of sharing those values.

The End Result

The work that the council needs to do isn’t over yet. But with our help, its leadership started to chip away against the issues.

The council now has a set of values that it can define when asked. Furthermore, it no longer has a toxic workplace culture. The fractured groups have finally started to merge under a united vision.

For the first time in over a decade, the council has a direction. This, in turn, gives its people something to focus on. With everyone on the same page, the council can move forward.

We continue to work with this client. The old ways of doing things are now melting away. In their place is a new culture that takes every member of the council into account.

Building a Culture

Building a Culture After Merging – What You Can Learn

It’s fair to say that our client didn’t take the best approach to merging. It didn’t set any guidelines or goals for the merger. The council didn’t even have a set of values when we started working with them.

They’d struggled with building a culture after merging.

You may have recently experienced a merge or have a merger of your own planned. These tips will help you to bring together your different types of group culture to create a new whole.

How to Build a New Culture After Merging – Tip #1 – Develop Your Vision

Every organisation needs a sense of direction. Without one, your people have no purpose. They work aimlessly and butt heads constantly. This affects collaboration within the workplace and eventually leads to disengaged employees.

Your values define your vision. That’s something that our client’s leadership didn’t realise. They became so focused on their work that they forgot to establish why the work mattered in the first place. They didn’t create an ideal image of the future for their people to work towards. As a result, the council just spun its wheels and made almost no progress culturally.

Think of your vision as a jigsaw puzzle. If you don’t establish what you’re trying to achieve, it’s the same as doing the puzzle upside down. You’re just trying to slot pieces together with no sense of what your end goal is.

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But if you turn the puzzle pieces around, you can see the parts that make up the vision. And if you look at the box, you can see what the vision’s meant to look like.

Don’t try to put the pieces together before you know what the puzzle’s meant to look like.

How to Build a New Culture After Merging – Tip #2 – Confront Negative Influences

Confronting negative influences is one of the biggest challenges of building a culture after merging. Everyone has their own idea of how you should do things. Some of those ideas get cast to the wayside. If the reasons for this aren’t clear, resentment starts to grow. If left unchecked, this resentment leads to people reverting to their old ways. They rebel against the new establishment because they want to do things the old way.

These negative influences spread down to all levels of the organisation. In the case of merged councils, groups stop communicating and start to silo themselves away. They’re almost at war with one another, rather than united under a common vision.

You end up with a toxic culture that damages every initiative the merged council undertakes.

It’s crucial that you confront these negative influences before they affect the entire organisation.

Creating a shared vision is just the first part of this process. You also have to get the organisation’s leaders to buy into that vision. This requires open communication that allows people to express their feelings. Importantly, you have to listen to what they say. Someone who feels like they’re getting ignored will feel undervalued. This increases the chances of them spreading negativity.

Communicate your expectations clearly. Also, don’t assume that you have to throw out all of the old cultures and start fresh. You can cherry pick the best part of each previous organisation’s culture to build the merged culture.

Finally, ensure everyone has a voice. A merger is a group effort and no one person has the right answer. You have to work together to figure out what you want to achieve. This inclusiveness quashes negativity before it takes root.

Building a Culture

How to Build a New Culture After Merging – Tip #3 – Listen to Your People

Do you remember the multi-million dollar mistake we mentioned earlier?

That happened because our client didn’t listen to its people.

The council’s leadership brought in a consultant to help it overcome its problems. That consultant proposed a host of measures for the council to take.

The management got on board. However, the council’s people knew that the new measures wouldn’t work.

Unfortunately, the leaders chose to listen to a consultant who had no experience of working with governmental entities. The resulting mess cost the council millions of dollars. And they could have avoided it if they listened to their people.

Your people are one of your most valuable resources. They’re the ones who put your organisation’s processes into action. As such, they’re also the ones in the best position to recognise issues. Ignoring them can lead to the sort of mistakes that our client made. Worse yet, it causes people to disengage from the organisation.

Why should they care about their work if no-one values their opinions?

When merging multiple councils, you have to take your people’s views into account. Consult with your teams to see if your plans are actually workable. They may be able to spot issues that you didn’t consider.

Create a feedback loop that incorporates the opinions of every group. Get your people involved and don’t punish people for ideas that don’t work. You’re looking to create a collaborative culture out of several fractured groups. Missteps will happen along the way. Encourage your people to keep sharing ideas and pointing out issues.

The Final Word

Our client still has a lot of work to do. The internal warring that took place for so many years created a host of organisational culture problems. They can’t solve those problems overnight.

However, they’ve taken some crucial steps towards building a great organisational culture. The council now has a vision based on a set of values. That means its people have a direction to follow.

They’ve also created a more open culture. The leadership now confronts problems head on instead of letting negativity take hold.

Finally, its people now feel like they’re part of the decision-making process. Their opinions influence the course that the council takes. As a result, they more engaged and the council’s leaders have more information.

Have you undertaken a merger that’s led to organisational culture problems?

Are your people struggling to cooperate because they have different values?

Do you want to know the secrets of building a culture after merging?

Great Managers can help you. Register for our webinar today to learn how to bring warring groups together under a shared vision.