Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
~ From Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Corporate growth occurs along three basic paths: 1) mergers and acquisitions of related, rival, or complementary businesses, 2) organic growth through the acquisition and retention of new customers, and 3) one-time promotional events that gain mostly temporary customers. The third option usually does not result in substantive organizational change to the business. Organic growth can eventually result in the creation of new departments of business needs, which involves expansion of staff rather than consolidation of departments. Mergers and acquisitions, however, often involve the consolidation of departments and personnel from different businesses and business cultures. Combining departments gets tricky if it’s to be managed without inciting resentment, confusion, misunderstandings, and turf wars.

Luckily, we’ve got a process for that.
Okay, we don’t have a standard, one-size-fits-all process. But the process for merging departments does follow basic benchmarks which can then be tweaked to customize it for the particular needs of the business.

First, prepare.

The process begins with preparation and planning before the merger. Assign teams to analyze the existing processes within both organizations. Although the business being merged into another company may be expected to relinquish much of its own processes, you will find that there are some insights to learn from the way they do things that bear incorporation into and implementation within your company’s processes. After all, your company is acquiring and/or merging with the other company because there’s value, so don’t throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water. They bring something of value to your company, don’t discard the processes and culture that contribute to that value. The key is to figure out what those advantageous processes are and then to integrate them into your processes as smoothly as possible.

Involve all parties.

Consolidation of companies and the departments within companies affect everyone within both companies. Understand their anxiety. Such business decisions often mean the elimination of jobs, the addition of new responsibilities, the reassignment of responsibilities, and redistribution of roles. Every single person involved should have the opportunity to contribute to the process to help determine who will do what and when. Promote ownership of the process.

Serve your customers.

The merger and acquisition of businesses generally takes place to add or expand service or product capabilities. Keeping customers satisfied during the transition helps to minimize disruption and confusion for both the clientele and your employees. Maintaining efficient operation during the transition may mean that it takes longer than desired, but the slower pace will allow time for glitches to arise and be rectified and new processes developed to avoid repeating them.

Prioritize changes.

The preparatory phase of the merger and acquisition should identify those processes which take priority as well as point out where new processes must be developed. Involvement of all parties and continued operation during the merger will either bring new information to light or confirm existing conclusions which will lead to the determination of which processes are the most effective, which need to be combined, and which must be replaced or simply eliminated.

Monitor and manage.

When integration is complete and the dust has settled, monitor the newly combined staff and the new and revised processes for continued efficacy and efficiency. Because business continuously evolves, processes must be periodically reviewed and adjusted to accommodate changes in personnel, organizational structure, technology, or other impact affecting the delivery of service and/or products to your clients.