Beware of the integration do-gooders.

Chances are you have a few of these people scattered across the management ranks. I’m talking about soft-hearted managers, those misguided souls who seem to think you can run an effective integration without upsetting anyone. These are the folks who would sacrifice integration success in order not to disturb the organizational peace. They’re nice people and generally well intentioned. But here’s the irony: Theirs is the cruelest approach.

Merging two companies works best when you show deep respect for certain ground rules. When I say “works best,” I mean these ground rules represent the most caring and benevolent way of dealing with employees, just as they offer the most promising route to merger success.

Real quickly, here are the “7 secrets:”

  1. Promise change.  Don’t seek to reassure people by insisting that it will continue to be business as usual. That’s BS, even if you believe it to be true.
  2. Make the tough decisions.  And do it ASAP.
  3. Speak the truth.  Level with people. Pour it straight and undiluted, 86 proof. Let them know what’s coming.
  4. Integrate rapidly.  Get it done!  Seriously, you need to think of this as organizational surgery—get in, get out…stitch it back up and let the healing begin.
  5. Go looking for bad news.  Instead of looking for proof that things are working, search for evidence of problems.  That positions you to fix them.
  6. Fire troublemakers.  Make alumni out of a few people. Get them out of their misery, and then watch how other people get on board.
  7. Lead, for Pete’s sake.  Set clear direction, specify priorities, be decisive and drive hard.  Do what needs to be done, and don’t try to win some popularity contest.

Doesn’t sound kinder and gentler, does it?  That’s why so many executives screw up the integration process—this approach hits them as too hard-boiled, so they give in to the do-gooder influence. And that’s when integration actually becomes the most painful for people.

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