After Merger, Harnessing Friction to Hone The Blade

Organizational optimization, now that’s a mouth full. Whenever you go through a merger, there is some underlying compelling business reason. Successfully integrating two entities, however, isn’t as easy as merely modeling out a new business plan.

At Intrepid, we just merged Lift9 and Intrepid. On paper, the prospects are exciting as we merged a creative boutique research consultancy with a social media research firm. The new Intrepid has an opportunity to disrupt the market research industry by integrating and applying digital data sets with traditional research insights. There are out-of-the-box type of research thinking that we are providing right now for clients. That’s exciting.

Candidly, our biggest challenge will be on successfully integrating the two very different, yet complementary entities. Even with two small companies, the change management issues can be time-consuming and distracting.

For me, a key success factor is how to harness the inedible frictions that will occur into positive energy. We want to let the natural frictions “hone the blade” making us together sharper. Let the frictions become overwhelming and unproductive and they will certainly break the blade – us.

Each entity, each individual for that matter, has a distinctive point of view on how to move forward. After the hoopla of the merger subsides, the realization of all the work ahead to integrate and achieve the goals sink in. People tend to dig their heels in with their own perspectives, creating friction. I see this as a point of great opportunity. You have smart, capable people with differing points of view now trying to work together. The ensuing frictions make each person look at problems differently. Blind spots, which we all have, are now better covered throughout the organization. With effective collaboration, innovative, stronger strategies emerge. The blade becomes more effective.

It takes leadership to create an environment that is conducive to harnessing such frictions. There needs to be shared vision throughout the new leadership and alignment throughout the troops. Too many mergers end up ineffective because the friction is not harnessed properly, ending up as broken blades.  Others avoid friction altogether, letting the entities operate separately with no synergies. In these cases the blade remains dull and ineffective.

I’m obviously optimistic about our future. I believe in our people’s ability to harness the frictions properly. It is their ability to do so, and to get in alignment, that will eventually determine our overall success.