New Manager

Putting to work all that is good

M. Chandrasekaran | Updated on January 13, 2011 Published on January 10, 2011

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A case for ‘corporate syncretism' that focuses on all that is best in a business, critically its people resources.



Sunday lunch is a sacrosanct affair in our household. The family sits down for a meal together and many topics come up for discussion. Last Sunday we found ourselves discussing the need for religious observances to anchor oneself in one's faith.

My wife and I were out-argued by our children who maintained that there needs to be a reason as to why something needs to be done. In all fairness, their stance that blind observance is wrong had much merit and our weak arguments about tradition did not carry the day.

Later in the day, we were flipping channels and we saw scenes of mayhem ignited by religious passions and, thankfully, we also saw coverage of two religious sites devoted to the Shirdi Sai Baba and the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, that stand for our deeply embedded syncretic traditions. They are places of pilgrimage where people of differing religious beliefs come together drawn by the fusion of the best aspects of each religion.

The arcane world of M&A (mergers and acquisitions) seems to be in rude health again after a hiatus of many months. The news reports are full of stories of mind-boggling numbers being bandied about, which if true, would make the investment banking community salivate!

We know from factual data that many acquisitions fail and most invariably end up destroying value rather than enhancing it. I would imagine that one of the prime reasons for such failure resides in the inability of the two entities to come together smoothly. Let's look at a few reasons:

Outsized egos: One of the prime causes for failure. When integration of acquisitions that are based on a strong business case begins and the larger cause is subordinated to individual egos, especially at the top-most level, disaster cannot be far away.

The integration blitzkrieg: The dominant partner (Big Brother, also known as BB) unleashes a veritable blitzkrieg on the acquired company in the name of integration. We can go on but I guess it is now time to shift gears.

Part of the problem lies in the mandate given to the integration team from BB. They are told to integrate systems and processes, on-board the people and find ways and means to reduce costs.

Words have personalities of their own and a word such as integration seems to imply a mostly mechanical process with an element of force thrown in. As such, it can only go so far in meshing together resources from the two enterprises, most critically, the people resources. The concept of on-boarding people also seems to imply fitments relating to rank and compensation and job profile with just a superficial attempt at addressing the issue of hearts and minds, which is at the core of any integration activity. Perhaps the answer lies in going beyond mere efforts at integration; the ideal should be to achieve corporate syncretism. In essence, focusing beyond the visible tip of the iceberg and appreciating all that lies below the waterline. This will imply an ability to synthesise all that is best in both systems and applying it to the resultant combined entity without being biased by where it originated. This will apply to systems, processes, business offerings, and, critically, to people resources.

Religious syncretism is driven by faith. Companies need to go beyond the mere leveraging of synergies and need to invest in practising corporate syncretism. This is likely to be a challenging process and, hence, met with an understandable lack of enthusiasm and commitment. There is much to be gained even if companies are, at first, motivated to try this even if only in enlightened self-interest.

(The writer is corporate advisor to the Manipal Education and Medical Group. He can be reached at: mcshekaran@gmail.com)

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Published on January 10, 2011

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