As an introduction to the complexity of consulting to mergers and acquisitions we first want to refer to the notion of social defences. A central feature of IGO general theorising of organisational functioning is the notion that even the most efficient and reasonable patterns of work and divisions of labour have social defence properties. And because of this, we argue for a form of action research consultancy which we describe as a collaborative engagement between consultant and client to jointly explore the nature of their problems, to generate ideas for change, and then to test those ideas in practice and evaluate the results. This is the way IGO works with client organisations regarding mergers.
There are similarities to managing major change, but mergers present much greater challenges. Clearly, this is going to be a difficult task for all concerned at all levels of management. This is a largely unprecedented situation, and for everyone, this new experience will demand a high level of competence, determination and understanding if desirable outcomes are to be achieved. This will be difficult and demanding work for all which will be a further demand over and above the normal management requirements of the various levels of management. As such it would not be surprising that some may experience difficulties and while all will require support, some may require extra support to help them through this crisis. The important role of senior managers is to ensure that such support as is necessary is forthcoming to provide the containment required.
As a starting point, we may consider that the organisational cultures of both organisations are going to be destroyed in the process of merger. Cultures exist for a reason; here it is posited that they are a form of social system developed to enable members of an organisation to act in an appropriate manner under the circumstances imposed on them by the organisational environment. Cultures confirm and maintain a social order which also provides order for the internal worlds of individuals. New modes of looking at the world, new meanings, or just new ways of doing things, all threaten to destroy that shared reality on which social and individual order is felt to depend. Hence anxiety and resistance are evoked. When our world begins to crumble, we begin to crumble. It is this resistance that is not understood and which is considered to be irrational. Understanding organisational cultures is central to successful implementation.
All threats to destroy the shared reality on which social and individual order is felt to depend will evoke anxiety and hence resistance. Radical change on a large scale, such as the merger, ruptures the very fabric of what links staff to their work, the enterprise, and to each other. Profound emotions are mobilised as staff confront their hopes, fears and resilience in making the transition through a very horrible time. If containment is not sufficient, persecutory fears will be rife and staff will develop defence mechanisms to protect themselves from these forces. These may include repression – blocking out unpleasant experiences; regression to the paranoid-schizoid position; projection onto and into the Board and managers, and denial.
As has been shown, mergers are a highly emotional experience for all concerned. High emotions can lead to regression and the development of an 'us' and 'them' situation that may prevent progress in the merger process. IGO understand the emotional disturbance that is likely to occur and develop processes for identifying possible regression regarding individuals and parts of the organisation. They are also are skilled in providing and supporting senior managers in a process of providing containment throughout both organisations and the new organisation when it's formed. As has been shown on countless occasions, without this sort of consultancy support, the experience is a disaster. IGO have a successful record of successful and sustainable mergers.
Organisations and individuals wishing to discuss the IGO approach to Mergers and Acquisitions, or obtain advice regarding this without commitment, are invited to contact the Director of IGO.