Successful Cross-cultural Mergers and Acquisitions: Step 1
Cultural differences have contributed to the failure of many promising business enterprises. By Solidifying a Common Mission, your chances of a successful cross cultural merger and acquisition increase dramatically by ensuring that cultural difference becomes competitive advantage.
Strategic relationships between organizations present special considerations including allocating scarce resources and satisfying the needs of diverse stakeholders. The equation becomes more complex when the relationships involve groups of individuals from different cultural backgrounds.
Different customs, values, languages, and time zones are some of the challenges organizations must overcome to achieve a shared mission. The path to success is both intuitive and satisfying. The first step toward successful mergers and acquisitions is to Solidify a Worthwhile Common Mission.
A Worthwhile Common Mission creates cohesion between groups with differing values, perceptions, and languages. A Worthwhile Common Mission supports organizational objectives and unifies across cultures and national boundaries. A well supported shared mission supplies focus, instills purpose, and rallies individuals and groups to reach beyond differences. A unifying mission focuses minds on the greater good of a shared purpose. Diverse minds with varied approaches to problem solving are enlisted toward the Common Mission.
In order to solidify a Worthwhile Common Mission, you need to first identify a purpose that is worthwhile to both the acquiring and the acquired organization. After identifying a worthwhile common purpose, solidify the purpose into a mission with sound strategy that supports goals of both organizations.
Identifying a purpose that is worthwhile for both parties involves answering the question “What is our purpose for working together?” A worthwhile purpose for entering a partnership supports the overall mission of both organizations. In order to formulate a purpose that supports your overall missions, you first need to understand the missions of your individual organizations.
Many successful organizations have their long term missions codified into mission statements, vision statements or both. Corporate missions are published on company websites, intranets, annual reports and corporate directories. Listed below are some examples of mission statements from prominent organizations:
We strive to lead in the invention, development and manufacture of the industry's most advanced information technologies, including computer systems, software, storage systems and microelectronics.
We translate these advanced technologies into value for our customers through our professional solutions, services and consulting businesses worldwide.
The Peace Corps
Our purpose is “to promote world peace and friendship….to help the peoples of ….countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower
Imagination at work. Our people worldwide are dedicated to turning imaginative ideas into leading products and services that help solve some of the world’s toughest problems.
While the missions of large organizations may be articulated in the form of a mission statement, such is not always the case for smaller entities. If your organizational missions are not clear to you, make it your top priority to formulate a clear idea of your missions. With a clear understanding of both organizations’ mission, you are then ready to define a purpose for the strategic relationship that supports both missions.
A worthwhile purpose has 2 components. First it supports both organizations’ overall missions. Second it fulfills a need that communicates lasting value across cultures. A strategic alliance with a purpose that supports the corporate mission will ensure legitimacy when budgets are allocated and ensure the support of stakeholders within both organizations. An alliance with a purpose that has lasting value unites diverse groups across cultural boundaries.
A worthwhile purpose accomplishes something of value to both parties. It supplies a need that both groups working together can more efficiently fulfill than one party going it alone. Defining a purpose that fulfills a need at the bottom of a traditional needs hierarchy such as meeting certain profitability goals is transitory. Long lasting relationships are built on fulfilling needs that are higher on the needs hierarchy and tend toward fulfilling organizational actualization. Like IBM, GE, and The Peace Corps, strive to identify a common purpose that fulfills actualization goals.
A truly worthwhile common purpose is unifying. Employees at all levels understand, identify, and buy into the purpose. When petty disagreements over procedures occur, a truly worthwhile purpose unifies. Vice Presidents disagreeing over territories, Sales Managers disagreeing over commission structures, project teams disagreeing over methodology all tend to work out their differences and choose the best solution as long as they buy into the common purpose.
After identifying a worthwhile purpose, the next step is to solidify the purpose into a mission by implementing sound strategy. A strategic plan clearly identifies the Who, What, How, How Much, When and Why of fulfilling the purpose. Aligning the strategy with internal stakeholders and external partners ensures support.
Sun Tzu, the Asian military strategist had this to say about strategy: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Sun Tzu understood that a good strategic plan is essential to success. Going through the motions without a plan is simply noise – empty noise preceding defeat.
The strategic plan should contain clear measurable deliverables that satisfy all expectations for the relationship. Timelines and preliminary resource and budget expenditures should be included. A strategic plan should include the following information:
What is the purpose of this engagement?
Why is it important to proceed with this engagement?
When does this engagement need to be completed?
What is the proper timing to initiate this engagement?
Who are the Players?
SME (Subject Matter Experts)
How are you going to execute this engagement?
How much money will it cost?
How much money will you make?
What other benefits are there?
What other costs are there?
An ideal strategy defines success, aligns the interests of diverse stakeholders, and lends legitimacy to budgets expended and resources allocated. A worthwhile common purpose combined with a detailed strategic plan becomes your blue print, your play book. The end is visualized from the starting gate. The purpose becomes a mission. The mission gives the Project Manager, the VP, and the Customer Support Representative meaning for their daily actions.
Culture can be a divisive element. Differences in beliefs and values have caused individuals to refer to other groups as ‘Great Satan’ or ‘Evil Empire.’ Cultural intolerance has contributed to much suffering in the world including genocide, slavery and religious persecution. Cultural differences have also contributed to the failure of many promising business enterprises. By Solidifying a Common Mission, your chances of a successful cross cultural merger and acquisition increase dramatically by ensuring that cultural difference becomes competitive advantage.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brent has a background in eCommerce, international trade, foreign language, and international relationship management. He has a BA summa cum laude from Brigham Young University with an MBA from the University of Hawaii. He is a certified Project Management Professional and a Six Sigma Greenbelt. Brent is fluent in 2 foreign languages and has varying competency in 4 others.
Brent is co-author of "The Way: 7 Principles of Intercultural Cooperation"with Tim Alles. It is available on Amazon