Chaos, Order and Control are Worldviews at Play In Mergers and Acquisitions

(This post was inspired by generative conversations between Jerry Nagel and Kathy Jourdain as we think (often) about our Worldview work, our Art of Hosting back ground and our clients.)

Mergers and acquisitions are known to have a high failure rate – anywhere from 50% to 83% or even 90% depending on which report you read. A 2010 McKinsey and Co. report indicates more attention needs to be paid to culture and that better leadership is needed in the integration of cultures. A 2015 Europe Business Review article notes that trying to bring large groups of people together under one mission is hard enough. The complexity ramps up when there are multiple branch offices, especially when working across borders with different systems that are already in place in different locations. This is where the structured approach of Worldview Intelligence opens up the exploration of what could work best as those pre-existing cultures find new ways to work together.

One of our clients is a health care delivery enterprise of about 30,000 employees currently in two states in the US. They have grown significantly in the last decade through mergers and acquisitions. The original company was founded in one city and the mergers have resulted in three main campuses in two states and three large cities with very different local cultures. They are in the midst of standardizing systems across the enterprise and, not surprisingly, are bumping into a few challenges along the way.

We introduced their Academic Affairs team, with people from all the campuses, to Worldview Intelligence with individualorganizational and social systems explorations. The social systems exploration was particularly revealing for their communication and relationship across campuses.

They were asked to consider each of the cities they were located in as a social system. Participants from the lead campus comprised one discussion group and the other campuses created a second discussion group. Both groups were asked to use the Worldview Intelligence framework to think through their cities as a social system, the impact of that social system on their campus and vice versa, the impact of the campus on the social system. They already knew the cities had different cultures but had not previously thought so intentionally about how those cultures were formed, the influences on their histories, the realities they experience now, the futures they aspire to or the shared values. Nor had they thought about how the social system might influence interaction and relationship between the enterprise and the community.

One thing became clear: the worldviews of each city – its history and current reality in particular – have a strong influence on the individual campus. And that influence was not well understood or considered when standardizing the systems and processes across the enterprise because it operates invisibly in the background.

Reflecting on our work with this client, got us to thinking about this well known pattern from the Art of Hosting Conversations That Matter: the chaordic field – essentially about the relationship between and perception of chaos, order and control in merger and acquisition processes – essentially worldviews in play.

Chaordic Field

The mergers create chaos – between different ways of doing things, financial management systems, patient processing systems, internal communication systems, and the mishmash of cultures – which already exists to some extent within each campus let alone across campuses. It only makes sense that standardization of systems and processes across the enterprise is needed to bring consistency to reporting, to patient interaction and record keeping.

As the original campus – the leading worldview in this case – organizes to address the chaos, they want to bring order to the systems and processes. What they perceive to be order gets perceivedas control by the newer or non-lead campuses in the system. And it is a natural tendency for people to resist being controlled – real or perceived.

Without having the language and framework of Worldview Intelligence, it is hard to name the issues that influence acceptance of standardization or even to pinpoint exactly what the challenges are. With the ability to look at many aspects of influence inside the campuses as well as the impact of the community or social system the campus is part of, it gives rise to new questions. What is the level of standardization that allows for consistency across the enterprise and responsiveness to the social system each campus resides in? And, what is the level of engagement across the enterprise that will bring an alignment of worldviews into a sense of order rather than to be perceived of as attempts at control? If individuals or departments in each campus are engaged differently in the process of standardization – where they feel they have more voice or influence – they are more likely to feel the original intent of bringing order rather than that the lead campus is trying to control everything in ways that do not make sense on the ground in a different social system.


Chaos-Order Worldview Exploration Field

To the right of chaos, in this framework, is where the worldview exploration leverages many perspectives and allows many views to co-exist across the enterprise – which is what gives vibrancy to each campus. The chaordic field offers the opportunity to make visible the worldviews at play, allowing an intentional exploration that leads the way to cross-campus alignment on higher order issues and allows for greater consistency and thus efficiencies across the entirety of the enterprise.

The Academic Affairs team is now actively using the dimensions of the Worldview Intelligence framework explicitly and implicitly as it strategizes its work, communication and relationship on a go-forward basis.