Your company has acquired another company. In another country. From another business culture. One of largest investments in the history of the company.

There are reasons for the acquisition. Those reasons make up the business case. Business cases are translated into goals. Goals require a path to them.

That path – let’s call it post-merger integration – is a very complex undertaking. Complex action. Taken by people.

People integrate. People are integrated. Integration is not mechanical. Instead it is human and personal. We are not robots. We have minds and hearts.

Mergers, acquisitions, combinations – pick your term – are a coming together of peoples, of their minds and their hearts. How they think. Therefore, how they work.

Minds and hearts have a home. They come from somewhere. That somewhere is national culture. Home is national culture. The German engineer is a German first, then an engineer. The American project manager is an American first, then a project manager.

But Germans and Americans are not the same. Similar, yes, but different. In some areas very different. And at times, so different, that they are in opposition to each other.

The coming together of Americans and Germans cannot fully succeed unless the two cultures understand each other. Understand at as deep a level as possible: How they think and how they work. “Where they are coming from.” Literally, where they are from.

And this process of understanding must begin during integration. Not afterwards. Not when problems occur. Problems which will be painful and expensive.

If integration is the coming together of minds and hearts, then a structured, determined and constant pursuit of understanding each other must be the foundation of integration, common to all aspects of integration. Not an afterthought, but the focus of thought, in the forefront of our minds.