When the leadership teams of Cadbury Chocolate and Trebor Allan came together, they made a critical decision: to continue operating independently for the year until the two companies merged into one combined company. The leaders reasoned that the companies had different operating styles, cultures, and locations that were a forty-five minute drive apart, so it would be more efficient to manage the union separately.
Each business created its own integration project team that met to update each another. Although this approach sped up tactical activities, it divided stakeholders and slowed down cultural integration.
When the two teams met, differences were more apparent than similarities, and this limited the personal relationships that could be formed. Even the offices looked different, one being in a modern office tower and the other in a one hundred-year-old chocolate factory. Also, there was unspoken tension in the air, although you couldn’t quite put your finger on where it was coming from.
It took a year-and-a-half before colleagues started identifying with the new organization as the separatist approach put more emphasis on staying apart than coming together. This meant that selecting and modelling new behaviours was deferred until after the teams were combined, while one joint integration team would have had the mandate to build a new organization and gain the support of all the necessary stakeholders. The faster new teams are formed the faster they start acting as one.