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The Balancing Act of Merging Cultures

A strong and thriving organisational culture is undoubtedly an intangible ‘prize’ that businesses seek to build and improve upon to gain competitive advantage. Its importance cannot be understated, with 94 per cent of executives and 88 per cent of employees believing that a distinct workplace culture is vital to business success.

As organisations grow, culture becomes more complex. When a company is smaller, employees are closer to the core elements of their culture; mission, values and vision – because employees are working closely together. As the company grows, it is likely that organisational sub-cultures will develop, occurring when people of common situations, identities, or job functions gather around their interpretations of the dominant company culture. How do multiple cultures appear in the same organisation?

The organisational ‘split personality’ can be sourced from several catalysts from; Head Office/Regional, Merger/Acquisition, Long serving staff/New blood, Function/Function and Strategy/Operational. Over recent years, there has been concentration on making organisational sub-cultures one consistent way of being; a difficult task for larger dispersed teams, but still possible. Much conversation is spent analysing how ‘we got here’ – which although is an interesting discussion, rarely leads to the metamorphosis that is sought.

Looking forward

When the discussion focuses on looking at the future, it is natural to rely on qualitative and tangible outcomes, such as strategy and vision. While these outcomes are extremely important, a strong vision and strategy do not always guarantee good company culture. Rather, capturing the hearts of the individuals in the organisation, focusing on ‘what good culture feels like’ brings a more consistent and reachable target. The intent in most individuals, teams and leaders is good, derailed by different interpretations of expectations which can split the paths on which people are walking.

Achieving the balance

This isn’t to say that organisations should ignore the rational components of business either, such as strategy, policy and structure. Rather, organisations should aim to achieve a balance between the rational and non-rational, as illustrated in Margaret Wheatly’s model of organisational dynamics. Wheatly emphasises the importance for organisations to have an equal focus on both the rational and non-rational. A higher or lower focus will create an imbalance and disrupt its self-organising capability. A balance of the rational and non-rational combines to form an organisation with effective systems and processes and a healthy culture and working relationships. In essence, the non-rational puts ‘oil on the wheels’ of the rational.

One Culture, One Team.

No one is exempt from the culture conversation. The conversation needs to be in the same language and happening at the same time. Communication that transcends hierarchies, geographic spread and technical expertise and provides one common language that continues to be spoken and expanded upon is key in the culture conversation.
Start the conversation by developing a few acceptable and non-negotiable behaviours to promote as the way forward. Keep in mind that culture is a complex organism, and the merging to a few chosen behaviours is likely to be met with differing views and discussions on which chosen behaviours are the most important. However, with strong leadership and an organisation-wide commitment to achieve a common goal, the business will be set up for sustained success.

If you want to set your organisation up for success by building a thriving culture contact us for more information.



Core beliefs and culture Chairman’s survey findings 2012. Deloitte. Retrieved from

Organizational Subculture: The Good, The Bad, and The Misunderstandings 2019. Bonfyre. Retrieved from

About the author

TMS Consulting