M&A Culture Assessment and Integration

In the last 20 years the number of worldwide mergers & acquisitions neared 800,000 transactions, with a value of over $57 trillion US dollars.1 The number of articles analyzing why mergers & acquisitions fail far exceeds 70,000; and the theme of culture permeates these discussions. The consensus seems to be that cultural integration, the key to successfully merging two or more organizations, often has been deficient.

As a pioneer in the assessment of organizational culture, Human Synergistics provides the process and expertise needed to help merging organizations successfully integrate their cultures and realize the synergies anticipated. At the center of our approach is the Organizational Culture Inventory® (OCI®). It’s the best tool for cultural integration because it measures real culture—in terms of “what’s expected around here”—as well as the ideal culture—in terms of what should be expected to make the combined organization successful. Other tools, including some that are mistakenly called culture surveys, focus on aspects of climate–such as goal setting, selection, mission, and the like. These attributes can instead be measured more strategically and linked to culture using our Organizational Effectiveness Inventory® (OEI). If you want to integrate cultures you must measure and focus on the climate as well as the culture of both organizations and bring them into alignment. 

“As part of the acquisition and integration process, Business Objects used new software called Organizational Culture Inventory to help plan and monitor organizational change and facilitate the merger. One of the challenges was integrating the two different cultures. Business Objects was more corporate, direct-sales oriented and aggressive, a combination of French and U.S. styles; Crystal, on the other hand, was more “Canadian” in that it was egalitarian, communicative, community oriented and entrepreneurial. The solution, says Woods, was to form a new culture, picking the best from each.”

Source: Mergers and Acquisitions: Culture Clash

Human Synergistics’ Proven Approach

– Unite the combined team behind a Constructive vision for the future to deliver targeted results/outcomes (growth, innovation, customer experiences, etc.).
– Support the processes of defining, communicating, and/or operationalizing the mission, purpose, and values of the consolidated entity.
Administer the OCI Ideal to identify the shared values and behaviours that will promote goal attainment and the effectiveness of the combined organization.
– Provide a common language and data for identifying and discussing the legacy cultures of the organizations coming together.
– Inform integration plans to leverage cultural strengths and reduce counter-productive features of either (or both) the legacy cultures.
Identify the legacy cultures of the organizations (using the OCI), similarities and differences, and gaps relative to the ideal culture (using the Constructive, Passive/Defensive, and Aggressive/Defensive framework and the 12 cultural styles).
– Delineate organizational strengths and weaknesses to guide the effective integration and improvement of systems, structures, leadership styles, communication, design of jobs, etc.Use the OEI to understand the work climate (systems, structures, leadership approaches, etc.) for each legacy organization, how the factors are causally related to cultural norms, and the ways they can be changed to Constructively redirect the culture of the combined organization.
– Inform customization of integration plans by department, location, or team.
– Inform plans around important initiatives and for reaching critical goals (e.g., growth, innovation, customer experience, etc.).
Leverage the OCI-OEI data to understand sub-culture and climate differences (across departments, locations, ethnic groups, etc.), identify “local” changes as appropriate and refine improvement plans.

“After conducting over 7 mergers/acquisitions, our organization was a potpourri of cultures. It was very important to honor the histories of these organizations while at the same time pull people together toward a common vision. We utilized Human Synergistics’ Organizational Culture Inventory® to facilitate the collaborative process of defining our Ideal Culture and capture objective data about the characteristics of our Current Culture. We were then able to establish project teams to focus on key development areas that directly drove improved company performance. Human Synergistics and the OCI has become a critical tool in our M&A playbook!”

~Sandy Kuohn, Chief Human Capital Management Officer, TCF Bank

The framework, language, and understanding gained through implementing the OCI-OEI will help leaders, integration teams, and other subgroups practice and demonstrate constructive behaviours and interact more effectively.

If you would like more information on how to successfully integrate cultures during a merger or acquisition, contact Human Synergistics today.


1 Statistics on worldwide mergers & acquisitions, IMAA Institute.


Culture and M & A: Theory Into Practice (Germany/USA case)

Culture Makes the Difference in the Business Objects and Crystal Decisions Merger