How do you fix a failed M&A? One that you’ve already had consultants working on for one year with no significant progress?

Problem: This opportunity came up a few years ago.  Two business units (one recently acquired) were dependent on working together, but dis-respected each other’s work, and collaboratively functioned poorly with lots of “mistakes”, blaming and high conflict.

Solution: A quick evaluation revealed numerous system and leadership outages, but they were distractors from the primary culture and world view conflict which was driving the poor collaborative effort.  The evaluation also revealed several common values, one of which was being in the “movie industry.”

It was readily apparent that despite various process and system issues that needed to be addressed, we weren’t going to make progress without getting a shift in how each business group perceived each other.  So we decided to build on one of their stated common values, which was being in the movie industry.  We set about with a interview survey of each department that we video-taped en route.  In effect, our two person team created a movie based upon the interviews with both business units, in which we asked participants what would they most like the “other” group to know about them to be able to work together better.

We then invited both groups to a movie theater (introducing an environment that would disrupt their typical conflict behavior) and asked them to watch the movie we had constructed based upon their interview content together.  For 90 minutes both groups sat (without standing up and verbally challenging) and listened to themselves and the other business group talk candidly about what they wanted and needed to work together more collaboratively.  We in effect introduced content that they were partially aware, but we did so in an environment which was incompatible with verbal conflict, and reinforced attending and listening behavior (which automatically develops respect).

By the end of the 90 minutes, both groups had shifted to a more shared world view, were more appreciative of each other’s struggles and contributions, and began to drop the combative behavior.  In a sense you could say the entire “shift” process was culminated in one video screening.  The results were so successful, that the acquired service group became a 7 figure profit center in the year following.