Shared leadership 
in the context of an acquisition

When the owner of this Québec software development business contacted me, it was to share the news that he had sold his company to American investors. In addition to a sudden financial comfort, this made him very proud, with good reason! However, there was one deceiving catch.

The other benefits expected from this business merger, such as access to an international sales team, administrative support for the certification of products and more appealing career paths for his employees were not achieved. This was due to several reasons.

First of all, the new leaders were not interested in these priorities. Not having been part of the acquisition decision process and in a more difficult financial context, they focused very little on the potential benefits. In addition to these integration challenges, physical and cultural distance proved difficult. In addition to thousands of kilometres of distance, cultural shocks between conflicting organizational structures were significant. The acquirer, with nearly 10000 employees and 100 years of history was rather of a manufacturing and bureaucratic type dependent on well-established processes and protocols. The software development business was of a completely different type. Assessment was focussed less on individuals than on the quality of the finished product. The few dozen employees were sincerely passionate about their work and didn’t count their invested hours, often working nights and weekends to bring a product to fruition.

As time passed, the intellectual capital and the company’s revenues were at risk. The senior developers considered other job offers. Some left the company, others became disillusioned regarding their futures and alternate option

interventions
impacts

Thanks to the leader’s support, the following actions were taken:

  • Assessment of the current situation and that desired with the personnel of the Montreal start-up.
  • Assessment with the leaders of the American acquisition company in order to highlight the values, the expectations and the obstacles of the smaller company.
  • Sharing of results.
  • Training of the Montreal personnel in shared leadership and in collaboration in a culturally differing context.
  • Follow-up with the team in its future actions.

The following impacts were observed:

  • Initiatives were taken by members at all levels of the business in the form of a presentation to the new owners.
  • Meeting initiated by Montreal employees in order to discuss with the new leaders, which led to withdrawal of useless HR controls, and the implementation of appropriate TI ressources.
  • Feeling of belonging of the smaller division regarding their new colleagues.
  • Development of new software in collaboration with the American company’s teams.
  • Improvement of product visibility, of teamwork and of financial gains.
  • Feeling of control from employees regarding their futures and other relevant initiatives.
  • 5 year follow-up: Successful integration.