There are some important lessons companies who wish to improve their profits, or simply stay in business, cannot afford to ignore. Especially if they are involved in a merger or acquisition. These lessons were brought sharply into focus recently while I was preparing a company for its float.
The organisation had plans to expand rapidly, by buying related Australian and foreign owned companies. Ten companies in total, combined to create cross selling and other strategic benefits.
To be able to fund the preparations for the float, they needed to raise venture capital. People who supply such funds are fondly called ‘business angels’. They fly in not only with money but loads of experience. Sometimes they can mentor the company in which they invest. We were delighted to see these company directors loved the concept of being mentored and were impressed with the other plans. We were, however, puzzled that the dollars stayed in the pockets of these ‘angels’, covered securely by their tightly folded wings.
A little research revealed the reason – the investors were scared that the ten companies would each pull in opposite directions. In other words, that the cultures would clash.
In reality, could the promised benefits possibly come to fruition? Tough questions were asked of the consortium:
Our celestial friends were unwilling to part with any capital until they were satisfied that cooperation would be as transparent as the space inside any halo.
To support this objective, I was contracted as their corporate culture engineer. Here are some of my recommendations. These, I believe, are useful to all companies to contract people to pull together.
The change agents must be given full support by senior management. This same management team may, themselves, be struggling with the memories of the past. It takes time to create a compelling vision and have it digested by a critical mass.
Allow the Stimulation of Conflict in Debate
Organisations must be aware of the pressures that come into force when significant decisions need to be made.
Allow your people the license and the latitude to experience a degree of stimulating conflict. The kind of conflict that promotes a sense of urgency, the necessity to look for alternative ways of behaving and thinking. Healthy conflict, in other words. This will help people move away from only thinking about product and move towards different ways of working.
Regardless of how long a company has been in business, it should look to think constantly about questioning itself in order to be the very best it can be.
Surround yourself with people who will challenge you to be better, justify your thoughts and actions and expect you to rise to the occasion, on every occasion. They are your coaches. Expect more from their challenges and expect more of yourself. Stay sharp and at the edge, rather than slip back into complacency and thinking old ways.
|The High Cost Of Failure – A Case Study.
Failure to understand and escalate ‘challenge and opposition’ in appropriate ways cost one organisation seven lives and hundreds of millions of dollars. Loss of faith, integrity, delays, abandonment of frontier exploration.The organisation? NASA. They got it wrong – very wrong, when on the morning of 8th January 1986, the space shuttle ‘Challenger’ exploded 72 seconds into its flight. Under inflated and pressured expectations from the public and the NASA teams themselves, disaster struck. One entity suggested the focus was more on the social identity of NASA, rather than ensuring critical evaluations necessary for high quality decisions. Quality decisions of the calibre that should never be compromised. Compromised they were, at the immediate expense of precious lives and a tarnished reputation indelibly printed on the pages of history.
Can you afford just one cent of this assault on your reputation?
Written by Jill Sweatman
+61 (0)411 11 55 99