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The truth about navigating mergers

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in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Management Training

Many a leader has crashed on the rocks of mergers and acquisitions. That’s because the sirens’ call says that merging two corporate cultures is the “soft stuff.”

The hard truth, notes Susan Bowick, who retired last year as an executive vice president at Hewlett- Packard (HP), is that “the soft stuff is the hardest stuff.” Cultural changes can be extremely delicate and require five to 10 years before they “take.”

Why so long? Let’s give an example. When organizations merge, the two sides may find that they don’t even share an understanding of business parlance. In HP’s merger with Compaq, people at both companies used the term “customer solution,” but it meant two different things.

Business leaders need to identify these kinds of language differences ASAP and put them on the table … preferably, before the merger goes through.

Why so soon? Here’s another example. During a merger in which both sides said they valued “empowerment,” it turned out that they defined the word differently, so each company felt it had a culture of empowerment, and each thought the other did not.

— Adapted from “A Fitting Role,” Ann Pomeroy, HR Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management, www.shrm.org.

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