[Blog] Merger ahead? Lean is the key to overcoming culture clash

Blog - Modern Desk

Mergers in the housing sector are once again a hot topic. The advantages are clear for all to see, namely saving money and building more homes. However, the challenges and complex issues are harder to see and often become apparent once it is too late.

Culture has emerged as one of the most challenging barriers to effective merger integrations. So what is culture? Organisational culture is the shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which govern how people behave in organisation. These shared values have a strong influence on the people in the organisation and dictate how they deliver their jobs.

Housing is such a great sector to work in, mainly because the people involved are making a difference, live by a set of positive values and relish their social purpose. Most importantly, they are passionate. The key is to harness this passion to make a difference by developing systems, processes and front line services that are customer focused.

Companies with different cultures find it difficult to make decisions quickly or operate effectively. How can an inward looking newly formed organisation decide what the “best” ICT system is? Is it system A or system B?

The most insightful cultural observers are outsiders, because cultural norms mean nothing to them. We discovered this when supporting the merger of ISOS and Cestria through a series of Lean reviews. 

The two organisations came together to form the new ISOS Group. The objectives for this exercise can be summed up in their strapline of “stronger together”.

We helped them realise that Lean tools can be utilised to integrate cultures. We helped them to go back to the drawing board and take a fresh look at key systems and processes. The merger was the perfect chance to create a new customer centric way of working.

We have summarised the key findings from the exercise below:

Involve front line staff to collaborate on work streams – with the end customer in mind

We helped ISOS to establish a Lean & collaborative approach to decision making across the entire organisation. This was achieved by creating a front-line team to deliver the work stream.

A series of workshops were held with frontline teams and managers to enable staff to work together. We looked at where common processes could be developed and ultimately which ICT system would be best for the new ISOS group.

Make the work stream tangible and measurable

By focusing on identifying and implementing improvements, frontline staff felt empowered and energised when they saw the results of their workshops – cashable savings and time savings that increased customer value. 

Celebrate differences whilst moving to a shared vision

In the short-term the teams delivering the same service were operating differently; Lean helped them to celebrate innovation and best practices. We believe this is the key to developing common ways of working. 

In their own words…

“Service Matters generated a positive and relaxed atmosphere that engaged our teams in a focus on improving service delivery to customers. The approach taken by Service Matters demonstrated their considerable experience in working across the commercial and housing sectors. In particular, their empathy with frontline staff was a particular strength” ISOS Housing Group

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