Zero Point Zero One

One video. Four mins.

Imagine this.

Your company has just acquired another company. That other company happens to be in a different country. That means your company and the other company are at home in different cultures.

Your company is German. The acquired company is American. Or switch it around. It doesn’t make any difference. Either way, the merger will not succeed if those two lead cultures do not understand each other.

Imagine that the acquisition price is one billion. American dollars or Euros. It doesn’t make any difference. It’s a lot of money.

Now, let’s assume three things: First, there are differences between Americans and Germans. Second, the differences are in foundational areas. Third, if the differences are not understood, collaboration will suffer.

If you don’t agree with those three assumptions, there’s no reason for you to continue reading.

But, if you do agree, I have a question for you: What is your company willing to invest in order to reduce the risk that collaboration suffers because of cultural misunderstanding?

How about 100,000 dollars or Euros? Does that sound like a lot of money?

Well, what percentage would that be of the acquisition price of one billion? How about one-hundreth of one-percent? Did I get that right? Math was never one of my strengths. Zero point zero one. Not one percent. Not one-tenth of one percent. But one one-hundreth of one percent. Zero point zero one.

Is your company investing that much? Perhaps less? Perhaps more? Perhaps the company is investing a total of zero point zero zero. Nil. Zero. Zilch. Nothing.

Has your company even factored in the influence of cultural differences on the success of the acquisition? If not, what does your company know that the cross-Atlantic mergers of the past did not?

Now let me frighten you into at least considering investing that zero point zero one: 
What if the merger does not go well, if it underperforms terribly or even fails? You folks know the business case. You know where the critical points are.

What if the press writes about it? And what if they name culture as one of the major reasons for the failure? “not integrated well” … “were not aligned” … “did not get along” … “cultural infighting”?

Keep in mind that neither the press nor the financial analysts can quite articulate what they mean by “the cultures did not get along.” And how could they. They don’t understand the complexities. They are journalists and financial analysts.

And frankly, the companies who are merging – and by that I mean you folks – are most likely not much better. Or are you?

So the story appears in the media. The analysts begin downgrading. And your shareholders are not amused.

What will be your line of argumentation for why the company did not invest one-hundreth of one percent – zero point zero one – to ensure that the two lead cultures understand each other?

The keyword here is “ensure.” And you can spell it either way. With an “e” or with an “i”. It doesn’t make any difference. Zero point zero one. Success or failure.