There are people who say they love change, and people who will straightforwardly admit that they hate it. In my experience though, those who say they love it don’t always seem to enjoy the experience that much more than those who were never keen on the idea.
The thing is, whether you love it or loathe it, change is, well, a changeable beast. In any change process there will be moments of joy, despair, anger, elation, fear, doubt, certainty, and enthusiasm. We all go through what’s called the change curve, which has highs and lows, and we don’t all get there at the same pace, or in the same way.
In my experience, small changes mean small (or at least manageable) problems. But larger changes, such as a merger or acquisition process, where two (or more) companies are attempting to blend seamlessly into one, might mean hundreds of people across dozens of teams are struggling with change all at once. So how do you manage that and keep serving the customers who only deserve your very best service, every single day?
Take a breath
It’s Day One in your newly-merged company and it feels like everything and everyone is at fever pitch. Offices need to be redesigned, new uniforms need to be wrestled out of their packets, email addresses need to be set up, people can’t connect to printers, newly formed teams are trying to suss each other out.
Does absolutely everything need to be handled right now, today? It does not.
Instead, everyone needs to just take a breath. Get people settled into the building, then have a pizza lunch and let people just be together. As the leader, set a welcoming tone, and then sit down and let people figure out who their new tribe is by giving them time and space.
Seek out your cultural ambassadors
As people move through the change curve, some will reach the stage of accepting the change sooner than others; those people are your cultural ambassadors. If you can find a role for them in helping others accept the new situation, you’ll be amplifying the positive voices in your organisation.
Don’t ask people to fake something they don’t feel, but identify the people you see driving the change through their proactivity, their entrepreneurial spirit, and their commitment to making a success of the new future that’s being mapped out.
Don’t try to make this a top-down thing; the most real and effective ambassadors will be those who truly feel positive, and naturally spread that sentiment throughout the people they work with.
Don’t consign your history to the past
It pays to honour the histories of the companies being brought together, especially if one brand is being subsumed by another. At McGill, we have tried to incorporate some of our blended history into how we’ve decorated our offices and common areas, and we’ll be thinking about how we can do more to bring our latest acquisitions, McDougall Group and Kingdom Gas, into the McGill family in a way that feels respectful and right.
While you certainly want and need everyone to line up together, facing the future, you don’t want to lose the emotional connection and institutional knowledge that merging companies offer. Let people bring their expertise, and their loyalty to your new venture, and you’ll be rewarded by their long-term commitment and their willingness to work hard for your joint success.