There have been some spectacular business fails in the world of organisational mergers. Mergers that on paper looked like they would be a winner ended up with both organisations experiencing a downturn. Both companies may have great products, be market leaders in their area of operation, but when they came together something didn’t click. Many smart people were involved in these mergers so the failure wasn’t lack of intelligence or business acumen. It came down to culture. The merging of the two company cultures proved to be its undoing. As leaders remember that culture is critical to success. As Peter Drucker put it:
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
In any organisation it will be the way we do things that determines how successful the organisation is. It is not just at the level of mergers and acquisitions where culture must be focused on. At a team level the culture will determine whether the team can perform to its greatest potential or not.
In my last role, a good part of what we did as an organisation was to prepare people for living overseas and being a part of a team with people from different nationalities. The people going overseas would spend a lot of time and money getting ready so that they had every opportunity to make their move a success. Surprisingly the rocks in the road would occur amongst a committed team who have shared values and a common purpose. Misunderstandings are to be expected when dealing with people from different places. But what was most surprising was the common misunderstandings which occurred between team members who spoke the same language.
It was Winston Churchill who said that America and Great Britain are two nations divided by a common language. Because we speak the same language we assume we understand what the other person is talking about.
I am sure any executive involved in a merger would want it to succeed. But, failure to engage with the culture increase the chances of the failure of the merger. If culture is so important to the success of a team, and indeed organisations at every level, what can you do to shape culture in your team or organisation for success?
Culture creation will happen either by default or by intention. If you do not understand what you have done to create the culture you have then, good as it might be, you have no wisdom to do it again. You must be intentional in your approach and understand why culture dictates success and what kind of team culture makes success more likely. Being intentional to understand your current reality and think into your team environment for success is the first step.
As a starting point for you, in my new book I focus in on three important questions distilled from building teams throughout my career which will help you begin to create a successful culture within your team and organisation:
- Is the current team culture you have helping you to achieve the purpose for which you have come together? Are there areas for improvement?
- Does your culture enable you to maximise your team capacity in pursuit of that purpose?
- Within your culture is there an environment of trust which enables everyone to bring their best? Is it a safe place?
The question of how we do things round here needs to be thought of in the context of what results you are looking for from the team and what environment or culture will help to realise those results
Ignoring culture is a recipe for disaster. The good news is there are tried and tested ways of creating an environment built for success. You can discover more about creating a successful culture in my book here.
“If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning” John Mackey CEO of Whole Foods Market