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Developing a shared culture in merging organisations

Background

Organisational mergers are driven by business opportunities, but their success will often depend on the people in the new organisation coming together as a single unit. A group of NHS organisations were planning to merge to create a platform for growth into new areas of activity. The senior executive team had consulted widely on the proposal and discovered that there were serious concerns amongst the staff. Oxford Executive was asked to help in bringing the new organisations together as a single team.

Programme and method

This work began with Oxford Executive coaching the senior executives of one of the organisations to develop their leadership skills. Out of this work came a review of the strategy of the organisation and a proposal to merge six organisations that shared the same building, but operated independently. Oxford Executive then worked with the individual members of Executive Team of the merged organisation and others to help them in thinking through their plans for the new business and address their differences in personality and style. Some of these sessions included more than one member of the team, while others included the whole Executive Team. Once plans for the merger had been formulated, the Executive Team asked Oxford Executive to run a team building day for all the staff. In preparation for this event, a cultural audit was carried out to find out what staff were feeling about the proposed merger. Because of the number of staff, a representative group from the six organisations were interviewed. Along with specific concerns about the physical arrangements for the merged organisation, the audit revealed that, while people were very happy in their work, the consultation on the merger had left them feeling unsettled and uncomfortable. It was apparent that the individual organisations had very different cultures and that many individuals did not understand why they were being asked to merge, as well as having serious concerns about the direction in which the management team were leading them. Following the audit, two away days were held, one for the management team and the second for the organisation as a whole. These events were carefully planned to deal with the issues raised in the audit. The Executive Team members and the Chairman each explained their vision for the future and their enthusiasm for bringing the separate organisations together. Staff who had barely spoken to each other before introduced themselves and worked together in their new teams.

Results

The new organisation has now come together as an effective single unit. The merged business is thriving and growing.

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