Blog 7B. Mergers and Split-Ups



[This continues the discussion from Blog 7A.]

When conflicts between people in a merger affect key members, the conflicts should be resolved quickly. Explore critical details. Explore the old beliefs, the new ones, and the new culture and structure of the merged companies. Explore the personalities in the clash. Will the people change perspectives? Can they be inspired to change? to experiment? to try for six months an approach a neutral party suggests and then decide?

The Palo Alto Red Cross chapter merged with the San Jose chapter to become the Silicon Valley chapter. Palo Alto’s volunteers, retired CEOs, were always asked by staff if they’d handle a problem. The volunteers decided what to do and did the job, getting wherewithal from staff.

At San Jose, staff made decisions, did the work, and told the volunteers ( all blue-collar) how to help.

The executive director for the new Silicon Valley chapter and members from the former Boards sought the best from each chapter A senior staff member from San Jose couldn’t imagine volunteers handling problems. Volunteers from Palo Alto didn’t want staff telling them how to do what they were experts at. Using tools of consciousness, I suggested the volunteers work with the staff person if he’d try a different approach for six months? Yes.

Would the staff person experiment, and for six months let these volunteers do what was needed but keep the staff member informed hour by hour? Yes.

After three months, both sides were happy with the method and made it the new chapter’s standard operating procedure.

I ignored something critical. Because I did not suggest a meeting like Lencioni recommended, volunteers from San Jose took a year to work through the change and many left.

Split-ups generate conflict the instant they’re announced. Executives, managers, and staff worry about who will be fired and who will be kept, what the new companies will be like, whether the split will succeed, who will lead, and how the original clients and the public will react.

The different worries affect creativity and productivity. Fear makes neuron groups called the amygdala, to shut down the parts of the brain for creativity. The only part of the thinking brain that is active is the one that merely reacts, activating “fight or flight” responses.

Ralph Stacey pointed out the complex problems and uncertain outcome of split ups. He believes people look creatively and in detail at the complexity. Be creative when the amygdala has shut off so much of the cortex? Meetings like those of a merger help.



Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of

Contact me at 650-762-6755 or for more information or to start a conversation. 

Pieter Kark, MD, San Mateo, CA 94401-2238




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