The Science of Integration Part I

What do cultural integration, change application and execution of skill acquisition all have in common?

The critical step before results: Integration is perhaps the most important stage of any change effort. A post-merger integration study by Merrill Corporation in 2009 reveals that 66% of leaders start addressing post-merger integration issues early on in the M&A process. Why is integration so important?

As Nolan Bushnell once put it: “Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.”

People may know what they should do in order for change to lead to desired results, but if they are not applying it, we haven’t done much.

Low success rates: The second commonality here is that we are doing pretty poorly when it comes to integration, application and execution of newly acquired skills. The following section is taken from The Inconvenient Truth About Change Management (Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken, McKinsey and Company, 2008):

“In 1995, John Kotter published research that revealed only 30 percent of change programs are successful. Fast forward to 2008. A recent McKinsey & Company survey of business executives indicates that the percent of change programs that are a success today is… still 30%. The field of ‘change management,’ it would seem, hasn’t changed a thing.”

But something has changed, which leads us to the next factor that integration, application and execution have in common.

Have you ever been to a meeting that discusses execution and application when at least you (if not everyone else in the room) know that things will not be applied? Have you been part of strategic meetings that focus on needed changes that are not translated into execution? Science has finally caught up with desired results. The answer comes from brain science.

Shifting from point A to point B requires a deeper change: Studies show that while 81% of professionals say “yes” to change, only approximately 10% then take action to support it (HRIQ worldwide survey, NRG Publication, 2011). Integration typically requires people to change the way they change. Think about it this way, if people could easily adjust they would only need to understand what they need to change and – boom! – they would be there. Unfortunately, studies show that 90% of people are blocked from making needed changes because, even if they agree with and seem to understand what is expected of them, they still don’t implement change.

The bottom line is, people are missing something, without which integration, application and execution of new skills are going to stay out of reach. As tempting as it may be to look at M&As, strategic initiatives, training efforts and other change-related efforts as systemic efforts, we are likely to keep seeing 30% success rates unless we provide people with a new foundation.

Next Week: More about this scientific-based change system that is already turning integration into a science.


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