Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 4 2006, page 28-44.
Lotte Bak Pedersen
The concept of organizational culture has been given considerable interest among researchers in relation to mergers and acquisitions. Very often this leads to an emphasis on so-called culture clash as an explanation of the numerous problems that often arise in the process of integration two or more organizations. This perspective seems to be based upon an understanding of culture as a stable and unambiguous structure that guides the members of an organization in their actions.
However, inspired by Kleppestø (1993), the point of departure of this article is not the potential culture clash estimated by the pre-merger differences in the organizational cultures of the four municipalities who are merging into one municipality. Introducing a different understanding of culture emphasizing the dynamic aspects of organizational culture the article focuses on how the merging process itself (or the planning of the merging process) cannot be neglected as an important context for the cultural self-descriptions of the organizational members. Empirical findings based on a study of the Highways Department of a municipality in the North of Jutland shows that the future merger of four municipalities has caused a pronounced awareness of the strengths of a small organization, e.g. loyalty, flexibility, and lack of competition between colleagues. In contrast to the small organization the new municipality being about four times bigger becomes the bogey for the employees. Thus, an important task for the management is to initiate a process that can transform the present image of the new organization into a more positive one and make the future organization seem less meaningless to the employees.
Furthermore, the findings of the article points to the fact that so far the vision for the new municipality has played only a subordinate part in the planning process. It seems very important to continue the visionary work in order to give the employees a sense of direction in the midst of this extensive organizational change.