Posts Tagged ‘Corporate Team Building’


Friday, May 21st, 2010

There are areas of mediation and conflict resolution that are all too often ignored by even the largest of companies. If I had to characterize the omission, it would be close to not having automobile insurance, not taking fire precautions, not locking your car door in a city or not taking preventive medication.

A positive case in point that may illustrate the type of problem that arises is a story of a large fortune 100 company, whose financial division included a marketing department and the CIO’s (Chief Investment Officer) department.

These two groupings employed well over 1,400 people. The “powers that be” decided that it would be worthwhile, due to the departure of the executive in charge of marketing, for the CIO to take over and combine the functions of both of these departments. The problems that arose from this combination were many and yet, when we investigated, it was in large measure due to the perceptions that each department held of the other.

According to Marketing: “The CIO department sits in an ivory tower and makes (word altered here) “stuff” up that has no application in the real world and expects us to make it palatable”.

According to the CIO group: “Marketing doesn’t really do anything anyway. They throw parties and put names on hats and golf balls”.

The challenge here was not the mechanical or functional merge between these diverse portions of the same organization, but rather the cultural merger. Could the perceptions that each held of the other be changed? What were the factors and blocks that stood in the way? Would the organization take an active structural role through a shift in the way it rewarded the employees so that cross group and team function was a portion of the bonus structure? Was it possible for the individuals at the top of this grouping to genuinely attribute value to their interaction with the other department and model that for the whole group?

In this case, perceptions were changed and structures were shifted through the application of mediation and conflict resolution approaches. After a year of our input we found that a natural synergy had been developed, that project managers for the CIO service would always request participation by the Marketing department in the earliest stages of development and the reverse was also true. These departments became intertwined, and the group leaders requested that the leadership structure be moved into the same suite of offices so that they could cooperate more easily. Through the wisdom and sensitivity of leadership, mediation help was asked for at the right time and the results were excellent.

By contrast if we look at the rise and fall of the Daimler-Chrysler merger, we can see that they believed a tremendous amount was to be gained by the merger of technical expertise and manufacturing capability. Indeed, the technical levels of both organizations were raised considerably. The final results only a few years later were characterized as deception and betrayal. The short lifespan of this merger was due to the lack of will to invest in making a conscious cultural merger. This might have been be carried out by consultants who had a wide range of communications, mediation and conflict resolution skills being brought in during the initial merger talks and not left as an afterthought to the financial or just to chance.

Sometimes it seems that even large companies with billions at stake don’t want to take their medicine. The use of the professional services of cultural mediators early on can be the “Spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down”.

Richard Dash