A Very Personal Process: Dealing with Post-Merger Cultural Change in a Financial Services Institution

By Désirée Ball and Lucia Garcia-Lorenzo.

Published by Change Management: An International Journal

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This research highlights how organizational members use narratives as cultural resources to make sense of the merger in a newly created organization (FSI). The paper considers culture as a critical success factor in any change effort, especially in post-merger integrations. As such, culture and change are regarded as being interdependent and interrelated. The paper however, proposes to extend traditional models of organizational change to take into account the highly unpredictable, unexpected, and unplanned conditions of current financial institutions as illustrated by the specific change events experienced by FSI employees.

A qualitative research design drawing upon documents, field notes, and narrative interviews was used to explore the cultural context of FSI after the merger. The analysis found that the narratives FSI employees use, revolve around four main overarching themes that both illustrate FSI’s post-merger culture and display elements of cultural integration, as well as differentiation, and fragmentation: i) Under the rule: The need to feel valued; ii) The merger is a very personal process; iii) When the others arrive: A mosaic of sub-cultural realities threatening our identity; iv) Fragmentation is a threat to our personal stability. The findings confirm that all three cultural perspectives are ubiquitous within the organization supporting Martin’s (2002) meta theory of the need to adopt a multi-perspective-lens to better understand cultural transitions in organizations.

The research findings show how the merger became a very personal process for FSI members, threatening not only their financial situation, working conditions and roles but also their sense of self and their personal identities. Hence, merger events not only represent drivers of change in organizational terms but also, and more importantly, in social and personal terms. And it is through the study of narratives that we can access these processes.

Keywords: Organizational Culture, Mergers and Acquisitions, Organizational Change, Narrative Research

Change Management: An International Journal, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp.1-16. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 372.172KB).

Désirée Ball

London School of Economics, UK

Dr. Lucia Garcia-Lorenzo

Lecturer in Organizational Social Psychology, Social Psychology Department, London School of Economics, UK