Company culture and change is one of the most important discussions today. With the hybrid work challenges, and as some companies work through mergers and acquisitions, leaders need to get very clear on certain elements to help build a solid foundation so that they can Team Anywhere.
Today on the podcast, we interview Kim Clark Pakstys, thought leader and strategic advisor on mergers and acquisitions. Kim shares with us her experience with successful leaders who’ve been managing difficult mergers with patience, resilience and empathy. When two company cultures are merging, Kim shares five elements that leaders need to focus on to ensure a smooth change. These elements include leading with empathy, being clear on decision making and role clarity, coming up with a common language, and listening to the needs of your hybrid team.
Some industries have made more mergers and acquisitions since COVID than they ever had in history. Alternatively, other industries have paused mergers and acquisitions all together.
Prior to COVID, the conversation around whether the company was remote or in person was not a consideration as most had an office centric culture. Now, with so many companies adopting a “virtual-first” philosophy, it’s another critical consideration as leaders move forward with mergers and acquisitions. In a virtual first environment, it is difficult for new and newly acquired employees to assess culture. Leaders need to be extra cautious about the culture of their company and the implications on leadership alignment, accretion, value creation, and fit following an acquisition.
When two cultures are merging, there are five elements that companies need to focus on to adapt to a change.
When two cultures are merging, it’s important to come from a place of empathy so that you can deeply understand what culture you’re trying to create. This allows you to ask the right questions and create conversations around the desired culture themes.
Clear decision making
When two cultures are merging, it’s important for all of the leaders and teams to get really clear on what kinds of decisions will be made, when the decisions will be made, and who has the power to make these decisions.
One of the biggest decisions the company will now have to make is what is the culture we need to succeed together, now and in the future? The outcomes of these decisions will impact the level of engagement within this large change. Are we going to move towards adopting only one of the cultures within the new entity or are we going to try to combine cultures into an entirely different organizational environment? When done with mindfulness, this is a great opportunity for both organizations to move towards the best of both worlds.
When leading through a large change like a merger or acquisition, leaders need to be clear on what decisions are important enough to be on a radar, and what decisions can be talked about later. The guiding star for decision making is the ultimate goal of the merger itself–for the people and for the ultimate business results.
In mergers, it’s really important to be clear on roles and what levels of the organization are going to have what level of influence when it comes to making different decisions. Consider putting a RACI diagram in place. Role clarity is one of the most important elements of any type of change activity because leaders and staff must navigate through a process of stopping, transitioning, and then moving into a new context of work. A lot of chaos can occur and role clarity is very important to put into place.
Agreeing on and Using a Common Language
When two cultures are merging, it’s important to identify a common language. For example, understanding what certain words mean and the behaviors that would support them is very important. What accountability might look to one person is not accountability to another person. So, to ensure a smooth merger, the common language should be agreed upon and adopted going forward.
Listening to The People
When two cultures are merging, it’s important to really listen to how things are going so that you can take the appropriate steps to support them in such a big change. Take a simple pulse survey regularly to see how people are feeling, what’s on their minds, what’s keeping them from paying attention to what they need to be, and what can be done to make this transition easier.
About Kim Clark Pakstys
Kim Clark Pakstys is a board and c-suite advisor to global companies, particularly in the technology, Aerospace & Defense, Education, and Health Care sectors. She advises companies on the strategy for, and execution of mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, spin-offs, and restructures creating value and return on investment. She has led and overseen hundreds of complex transactions and integration for the largest publicly traded corporations, VC/PE backed firms, mid-cap leaders, and NGOs. She works across the deal lifecycle to frame vision, shape portfolios, align resources, mitigate risk, plan transitions, form and integrate businesses, and build platforms. She founded, grew, and exited an advisory firm that served private and public sector- DOD, HHS, DHS, DOJ, NASA, and FDA.
Previously, Ms. Clark Pakstys was a Managing Director and National Practice Leader at BDO delivering transition planning, merger, restructure, and post-merger integration services. She held executive leadership roles at Fortune 500, Global 2000, and VC-backed technology firms. Earlier in her career, she worked at PwC where she led global strategy and M&A engagements. She has worked remotely, led executives and distributed workforces through complex, organization change for two decades.
Ms. Clark Pakstys lectures on leadership, strategy, governance, and organization change at universities and corporations. She is an active board member and community leader.
To learn more about company culture change, download this episode now.
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