Understand your culture

The ability to reflect on, and describe your organisation’s culture is an important precondition to recognising suitable merger partners. Both organisations considering a merger need to understand their own culture in order to assess compatibility. And perhaps more than at other times, when considering a merger, leaders have permission to ask hard questions about culture. 

Without an independent perspective however, it is difficult for managers to assess and reflect on their own culture. It is very difficult to observe the environment when you are also a part of it. However, there are a range of culture assessment tools to help overcome potential bias in self-assessment. Two that are reasonably easy and quick to implement are described below:

1. Culture interviews – These can be conducted individually or in small groups, and may include the following questions

a.      What would you tell a friend about your organisation if he or she was about to
start working here?

b.      What is the one thing you would most like to change about this organisation?

c.       Who is a ‘hero’ around here? Why?

d.      What kinds of people fail in your organization?

e.      What is your favourite question to ask a candidate for a job?

It is just as important during these interviews to observe the behaviours and interaction patterns of people as it is to hear what they say about the culture.

2.  Culture surveys – these are written surveys taken by people in the organisation to provide their insight on organisational culture, and can be run in parallel to culture interviews (and can have overlapping questions). There are a range of ‘off the shelf’ products which you may also wish to use to assess you culture, which has the advantage that the questions are reliable and have been validated. However, they may include questions which are not relevant to your organisation – custom design surveys are more likely to shed light on aspects of your culture that are critical to the merger process (e.g. willingness to change / adapt).

These are two possible ways you can observe and understand your organisational culture. The results of your assessment of your organisational culture will inform any discussion with potential merger partners.

Please feel free to leave questions or comments on this part of the merger toolkit.