Promoting a Cohesive Mindset in a Newly Merged Business

September 19, 2019

Within any organization, groupthink can be detrimental if it stymies creativity and innovation, discounts individual opinions, inhibits engagement, and undermines moral. While the semantics may appear to be similar, having a cohesive mindset is something quite different.

When pursuing and integrating an acquisition, building a common mental model of the new business and achieving alignment on it is vital. This includes establishing what the merged entity aspires to be, what the strategic priorities are, which customers to target, how the business model will work, how the day-to-day business will be conducted, and ensuring every single person in a leadership position understands this new identity. Aside from sidestepping an organizational identity crisis, it also helps to avoid uncoordinated efforts among those leaders and improves the likelihood they conduct business based on the shared view of the new model and not some other view.

Having this common definition and universal understanding avoids confusion stemming from contradicting underlying assumptions and massive conflicts by well-intentioned people. Ensuring your organization shifts its old identity to the new identity takes some effort. Below is a framework to promote success:

1) Articulate Intent
During nearly every phase of a merger, open, honest, and timely communication is key. This holds true for conveying the new business model so everyone from all areas and all layers of the organization have a clear understanding of this new model.

2) Ensure Alignment
It’s easy to assume people who work closely with us think like we think and know what we know. Not always true. Therefore, leaders underestimate the amount of communicate required with even those who are the closest to them in the organization. Expressing intent about what you want to happen must be clear to not only those in leadership roles, but also to the people who directly report to them and the people who report to those direct reports. This will promote enterprise-wide adoption of the new mental model.

3) Plan and Connect
To make this new mental model a reality, synchronized actions throughout all areas of the business must take place. Establishing an action plan connected to the new mental model is a good place to start. An as example, Google uses an Objectives and Key Results process (OKRs) that establishes global OKRs at the top and cascades them down throughout the organization, creating linkage between all levels. This brings understanding, alignment, and focus to everybody’s OKRs and work efforts.

4) Execute and Adjust
Once the action plan is established, executing against it with urgency and any necessary course-correcting based on outcomes is equally important. One way to do this is to use a PDCA (Plan. Do. Check. Adjust) model of iterative planning and action.

While it’s typically the executive team or CEO that creates an organization’s new mental model, ideally a broader group of people are invited to contribute to the vision, outline the steps toward achieving the desired end-state, and successfully extend that vision deeper into the organization.

Companies that do this well will see material improvement in alignment and performance.

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