Implementing M&A transactions is inconceivable without cultural change

Categories: All articles, here at acondas, organization, transactionsPublished On: 25.08.2022

Even well-considered strategies for organizational change do not implement themselves. People’s attitudes and behaviors do not change automatically. Especially in the case of corporate acquisitions or spin-offs, the target culture of the “new” company can and must change. This is a complex change process which requires not only supporting the individual implementation steps, but also, critically, supporting and involving the employees affected by the change. This requires close interaction between project and change management. This is reflected in our acondas PCM® approach, which combines “hard” project management aspects with “soft” change management aspects.

To support active cultural development in implementing M&A transactions, we have designed a five-step approach that begins with an initial culture analysis and concludes with implementation of the target culture vision.

Cultural enhancement plan – Change measures along four levels

How do we support companies in actively changing their culture based on the analysis? How does change towards the target culture take place? In the following, we describe some of the tools we use, based on a successfully implemented project.

At an international energy concern, we supported the merger of two companies and worked with a client team to develop a change plan that addressed the need for cultural change and further developed the organization toward the target culture. Four areas were considered in the change plan:

  1. Convincing: Inspire employees to believe in the culture change
  2. Empowering: Enable employees to master the change
  3. Role-Modelling: Enable leaders to be visible change leaders
  4. Reinforcing: Make culture change sustainable 

To achieve this, we provided our client with a customized “toolbox”.

During project initiation, we identified personas and conducted a stakeholder analysis to map various employee groups and their needs, fears and wishes. Based on this analysis, we selected the tools we used to reach all employee groups.

Early on, we organized webcasts in which the Executive Board explained the reasons for the merger. A well-prepared change story ensured consistent communication and transparency throughout the company. The change story included the reasons and an overview of the change and also presented the expected benefits for employees. We also arranged “Meet & Greet Sessions” with the Executive Board, where employees could ask questions about the current corporate change in a small group setting. These Q&A sessions were particularly well received by employees, because they created a sense of closeness across all corporate hierarchies. It also allowed colleagues from different locations to meet and get to know each other.

To empower all employees to undergo change successfully, we designed and conducted “Team Purpose Workshops.” In these workshops, we worked side-by-side with managers to present the new corporate vision together to their team and then collaboratively identified the department’s contribution to this vision based on guiding questions. Particularly in change processes and the resulting new team constellations, it is important to enter into dialog with each other, to get to know each other in the process, and to learn to understand the other team members. The key questions were: What does the corporate vision mean to me? What value can I contribute toward reaching the company’s goals? What motivates me to go to work in the morning? Based on the workshops, we derived further measures to raise awareness of the change and to accompany the team in the change process. Since people go through similar stages in a change process, the team members were able to embrace change, share their experiences about it, and thus grow together as a team.

To encourage “Role-Modelling” identified so-called change agents, who are employees and managers from different hierarchical levels and departments who act as “change multipliers” in the company. Through regular exchange among these change agents, considering their vantage points within the organization, we developed specific new measures or adjusted existing measures. Without the support of change agents, the team supporting cultural change as part of the merger would have been unable to implement cultural change. In addition, regular townhall meetings were held in which the Executive Board reported on the current project status and, in particular, success stories were shared. The transparency created made a significant contribution to the fact that the changes were not only discussed in the townhall meetings but also in team meetings or cross-divisional information rounds.

In order to achieve sustainable cultural change, we created benefits to work according to and thus internalize the new culture. For example, we organized a “Value Week”, including various events around the new corporate values, presentations on related topics, a quiz on the theme of “collaboration”, team tasks and joint activities. The winners of the team tasks received attractive prizes reflecting the new corporate values. We also supported the establishment of cross-departmental communities in which colleagues with similar interests in the new organization could exchange ideas, including a community for new managers to exchange ideas across divisions and participate in regular management meetings, and topic-specific communities, such as a change community, in which employees volunteered to conduct team workshops to provide support to various departments. This kind of voluntary support from within the company itself was a clear sign that a cultural change had begun.

Continuous and proactive change management over the life of the project is necessary to create sustainable cultural change. Would you like to learn more about acondas or our project and change management approach? Feel free to contact us:

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