Every organization has a culture either by design and intentional leadership or by default. Evaluating your existing culture is valuable but keep in mind that assessing something doesn’t in and of itself change anything. If you have a culture that does not serve the outcomes that your business wants you already know that you have a culture issue. Do you need an assessment to validate a problem that you have already identified? If you are unclear on the full scope of the problem it can’t hurt. However, once you are aware of a culture issue what you really need is proactive action to move toward a culture that is positive and gives you your desired outcomes.
When the culture concern is tied to a merger/acquisition situation you may be inclined to attempt to take the good stuff from each and blend them to create a best of each culture. If you’ve ever done that you probably experienced “this isn’t how we did things!” push-back along with divisions between old guard elements from each pre-merger team and folks who want to see a new and different culture. Your best intentions may result in multiple factions rather than a productive and inclusive culture.
Creating a shared culture when two teams become one can be a lot like a marriage. Not a first marriage where it’s just two lovebirds who want to become one and build a life of love and unity. It’s often more like a second or third marriage where there are kids, extended family, and a lot of other stuff that comes with the deal. The good news for a business merger is that, unlike the blended family that may never discover that blissful existence where everybody is aligned, creating a new, common culture for a business can be accomplished through a process that helps everybody to discover the why, strengths, and values of the new team. At the same time they discover how their personal why, strengths, and values fit into this new team and the outcomes that all need to pursue. It’s a different tack than trying to patch two cultures together. It’s a process where the players are invited to lean-in, to contribute all that they have to this new culture. The individuals build an engaged culture where they are playing from their strengths and bringing excitement to the new team. It’s about building a new team with engaged players. Once that’s done they will have a culture that is new and is about the engagement and outcomes of this unified group. They’ll be busy pursuing exciting new goals rather than grieving lost old and comfortable ways. They’ll be communicating to assure that outcomes are clear to everyone rather than lamenting that “this isn’t how we did things!” Building a high performance team in this way has people looking forward instead of in the rear view mirror. Whether you need to create a positive culture with a team that has lost its enthusiasm or when you need to build a new culture that unifies factions in a merger, look at developing leadership that will create a new and vital culture. Focus on equipping leaders and you will see great culture as an outcome of the team doing great stuff.