New super council CEOs should take Harte when trying to integrate staff

New super council CEOs should take Harte when trying to integrate staff

Posted: Tuesday 8 April 2014. Author: Capita HR solutions.

The Reform of Public Administration (RPA) is possibly the single most impactful event to hit local government in the past 50 years.

Twenty-six councils are being reduced to 11, new chief executives have been appointed to run the shadow councils and, with their salary increases very much in the public spotlight, expectation will be high that they will hit the ground running and deliver value for money.

One of the key issues already acknowledged by some of the new CEOs will be the merging of different cultures into one organisation (the most straightforward definition of culture in this business sense came from authors Deal and Kennedy who described it simply as "the way things get done around here", ie the shared behaviours, values, rules and systems that drive the business). Some councils for example will have a history of very difficult employee relations issues, fractious trade union relationships and high absenteeism/low engagement; while other councils will have enjoyed swimming in relatively calm water, with little to no issues at all.

A useful analogy could be the move from club to county football. At club level players will be used to the Cookstown, Errigal or Strabane style of play. Clubs will have different standards regarding fitness, behaviour and absence. A marquee forward in a small club might be forgiven missing training sessions more easily than one might at a club with a large panel to pick from - some players will be used to training twice a week while four nights could be the norm elsewhere.

But when the players join Mickey Harte, they are expected to commonly adapt to his style of play, live by his rules and to adhere to his standards, working towards a common goal.

Ray Lewis, Superbowl winner with the Baltimore Ravens, said: "Greatness is a lot of small things, done well, stacked up on each other".

The difficulty facing the new CEO will be trying to integrate two (or more) very different cultures into a single harmonious unit. The key is to take small steps and get that right, building a solid foundation for success.

here are my 10 steps toward successfully integrating cultures:

1. Establish and define what you want from the new culture, what is important and what is not. Thoreau once said: "It is not part of a true culture to tame tigers any more than it is to make sheep ferocious". You don't need to change everything, just those things which are critical to success. Every culture needs some differences.

2. Do your due diligence. Understand exactly what you are getting from each organisation.

3. Communicate as early as possible to avoid first day at school syndrome. Make sure your message is unambiguous, transparent and understood. Ensure everyone gets to hear it and clamp down on rumours right away.

4. Involve the staff. These are the people (or some of them anyway) who will be the foundation of your new enterprise. They need to be involved from the outset.

5. Show strong leadership - do as I do as well as I say.

6. Make sure the basics are right - absence, performance management, competencies, systems, structures and procedures. Mickey doesn't try to implement a system of play unless he has a panel which shows up at training.

7. Identify and remove the roadblocks. Every business will have people who are resistant to change. Make it clear that they buy in or ship out.

8. Learn from others. Speak with people who can share lessons learned from their own experiences.

9. Remember your external customers. The show goes on regardless of what you are doing internally.

10. Celebrate success. If you are doing a good job tell everyone - even for small wins.

And most importantly remember: "No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive" (Mahatma Gandhi). Every successful culture has a diverse workforce. It's about helping them all find a way to work toward the common good.

Capita HR solutions