Category Archives: Acquisition Integration

Acquisition Integration 2

The first step to assessing organizational culture is to have the enterprise’s leadership define what is meant by organizational culture. Organizational scholars such as Edgar Schein have definitions such as:

Organizational Culture = pattern of basic assumptions, values, norms, and artifacts shared by organizational members or “the glue that holds things together” or “the way we work”.

The point is simply to reach agreement on the definition.


After establishing the corporation’s definition for culture, assessing said culture begins with what we can observe, either the actual behaviors of members or the visible artifacts such as mission statements within the organization. Following the observations, the next step is to try and uncover the unwritten norms or “rules” for how the business members should operate and interact with one another.   Those norms are governed on a deeper level by the values of its members — values about what is appropriate or not, values about how people should or should not interact or be treated. At the deepest level we all have basic assumptions about what it means to be human and how the world functions – in essence our world view.   Schein (1991,1999) posits that our personal values emerge from these basic assumptions about humanity, and these personal values drive our norms, which in turn translate into observable behaviors and artifacts.

The best approach to ascertain all of the above levels of culture is to use multiple assessment methods. After leadership input regarding the critical elements of culture, the acquiring team can determine if generic instruments will assess all the critical dimensions necessary for successful cultural integration or if in-house instruments should be developed. At any rate, multiple methods that allow the team to collect data by combining quantitative tools such as surveys with qualitative approaches such as in-depth interviews or focus groups should be pursued.


Acquisition Integration

Cultural differences between organizations, complicated by national or ethnic cultural differences are one of the primary reasons that acquisitions fail to meet their financial goals.   Corporations that successfully integrate purchased businesses pay attention to cultural differences and find ways to either assess cultural fit or implement strategies to foster cultural strengths of both organizations.

When the assessment is done during prior to purchase, the acquiring team can determine if in fact the target company is a good cultural fit. Smart companies have determined that if the cultural differences are too much, integration will be too difficult and the wiser decision is to walk away from the deal.

After purchase, the acquiring company can assess which cultural differences may play havoc with the integration and plan accordingly.

The most successful cultural assessments include several elements such as:

  • Assessing both companies – the acquiring and the target companies
  • Agreed upon, clearly defined dimensions of organizational culture – at least within the acquiring company’s leadership
  • Multiple methods and data points to provide the most comprehensive picture of the organization
  • Shared results and verification of findings with employees in their respective companies
  • Mutually agreed upon plans to address cultural differences between the acquiring and target companies

The two approaches that companies generally use to assess culture are to buy off-the-shelf instruments or develop their own tools in-house. A few companies may combine off-the-shelf instruments with their own. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. Using generic, already developed tools allows for a clean comparison between companies, but this method may not capture all the important elements of an organization’s culture. When an acquiring company develops its own tools, care can be taken to ensure that the critical elements of culture as defined by the acquiring company are measured. The down side of the in-house approach is that people within a given organization may not be able to identify their own taken-for-granted assumptions about their organization’s culture; hence, the tools developed may not be assessing the right dimensions or characteristics.