The acid test for collaboration is mergers and acquisitions. Getting two organizations with different cultures to work well together while tying the knot presents significant challenges. The key is to instill collaborative culture. As I noted in my April 12 post, which you can view here, the lack of collaboration has likely derailed such mergers as Daimler-Benz and Chrysler.
The lead story in today’s Wall Street Journal by Ellen Byron tackles Procter & Gamble’s $57 billion acquisition of Gillette, which I cover in The Culture of Collaboration book. The gist of the story, which requires registration to view here, is that combining the oral care units of P&G and Gillette involved particular complexity. Gillette’s Oral-B unit preferred meetings, while P&G’s Crest team liked memos. While P&G/Crest deliberated more, Gillette/Oral-B made relatively quick decisions.
Both meetings and memos have limitations in merging two geographically-dispersed organizations. Meetings require scheduling and travel. Memos are one-way, asynchronous and anti-collaborative. The most effective tools for integrating two companies are often real-time tools including instant messaging, web conferencing and videoconferencing. Presence brings these tools to life by showing which colleagues are available and by enabling instant connections through text, voice and video.
Ironically, I describe in the book how P&G and Gillette used presence-enabled tools extensively while managing the merger. The desire for spontaneous decision-making and problem-resolution drove the use of the tools. However, the tools took hold because P&G extended its highly-collaborative culture to the Gillette team, which was generally receptive. Judging from the Wall Street Journal story, there may have been pockets of anti-collaborative behavior during and after the merger. However, the broader story, which The Wall Street Journal article did not address, is that the P&G and Gillette merger is succeeding because of collaboration.