The Herman Trend Alert|
October 28, 1998
Corporate Culture comes to the Forefront
Lately, we've seen the growing understanding of the importance of corporate culture, especially in the blending of diverse cultures in the merger process. Just as in a marriage of individuals, there must be a meeting of the hearts and souls, so too, in corporate marriages, there must be a meeting of the minds and hopefully, the hearts as well. (Yes, we believe corporations have "hearts," too!) Otherwise, ultimately no one is happy with the union.
Case in point, the recent breakdown in merger talks between American Home Products and Monsanto. The two CEOs, John Stafford and Robert Shapiro have remarkably diverse philosophies of leadership, remarkable in that their partnership conversations progressed to the point that they did before they broke down.
When Chase Manhattan with its heart centered, growth-oriented culture joined with Chemical Bank's fear-based, cover your gluteus maximus culture, something had to give. To their credit, the leaders recognized that Chase Manhattan's culture would serve them best in the long haul.
When Lou Gerstner took over IBM, he would not listen to anyone who uttered the word "culture." At the time, the best way to lose credibility with Gerstner was to use the "c-word." Within 2 years we're happy to report, he had gained a greater perspective and the understanding that if he were to lead IBM to a successful future, he would need to shift the culture. He did and IBM has prospered. IBM now has a more employee-centered culture: their people AND their customers are happier campers.
In evaluating merger potential, we predict the two corporations will take much more care to look at the "blending potential" ahead of time—before they invest time, money and energy to involve lawyers and stock markets. Two immovable cultures will not happy partners make.
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