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Submitted by robin_s on


BLUF:  2 divisions are merging, and the leadership teams of both are now one team, and report to me.  I anticipate a rocky transition due to the concerns that several of these people have expressed to me.

Background:  I have been with this company for just over a year.  The company has operated for many years with two divisions, and a manager over each.  Division 2, which was formerly my only responsibility, produces product for Division 1 (our internal customer), and also for an external market.  Division 1 takes the product and "finishes" it for a different external market.  The manager for Division 1 retired some months ago, and I have recently been promoted from Division 2 production manager to an Operations Manager position, which now includes both divisions.  

I had 4 DR's prior, I now have 8.  Four of them (three of which are my new DR's) have come to me individually expressing serious concerns about working with each other.  The main issue in my opinion is a lack of trust.  The 2 divisions previously operated with clear borders and walls, and a good deal of "local optimization" versus "one company".

I can see so much potential for what we can achieve by operating as one team.  There can be greater efficiencies in labor sharing, a much better understanding of the flow of product through all stages of production, and a clearer vision of how we make our company profitable.  But none if this can be achieved if we can't work together as a team. 

I would love to hear from the community, especially if anyone has experience in a situation like this (it's not altogether different from a merger of 2 companies). I want to address people's concerns, in a positive way so they know they are heard.  At the same time, I want us to move forward and take advantage of the new opportunities that this structure creates.  Any suggestions?

naraa's picture
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 Hi Robin, I have not experience a situation like this, but I know someone that has and lucky for all of us he has put it in a book.  If you haven´t read it yet I think the book "The Speed of Trust" from Stephen R. Covey might help you.  He discusses on the book how trust can actually be built and established quite quicker than one things it can.  

The key in it is to understand that there are four cores in trust: integrity, intent, capabilities and results.  It is not as straight forward and practical as manager-tools, but he does give 13 behaviours which help built trust.  You are going to have to work it out a bit, but I think if you go to the 13 behaviours and see how it applies to the situation you are facing and give adjusting feedback to the people to adjust them to them you will be able to accomplish what you want. 

From your post, it seems like you have all the ingredients to make it happen: integrity, intent, capabilities and results (it seems like you have it yourself and have it within the group you are leading).  You have the vision already.  Hold on to this vision, (1) visualize it first to yourself, (2) believe it is possible, (3) plan and then (4) act accordingly to your plan.  

Slowly get others to share the same vision you have and you will succeed.  

Don´t focus on the absence of trust, focus on rebuilding trust.

Sorry it is not practical, perhaps someone has more practical, hands on advice to share!

Good luck.


AKM2000's picture

Another book to consider is "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team". It talks about the importance of trust and that being the foundation. It is a very easy read with a few ideas spread throughout; however, I HATE the title. You may want to have the team read it as a book study; however, I encourage introducing it and saying you are renaming the book to "The Five Functions of a Team".

I would also suggest team meetings regularly requiring all team members to share what they have completed and what they are working on in the future. Communication between the two teams will be key.

Hold strong to your vision of one team. I agree - I think that will lead to efficiencies.

NOW - I offer these suggestions - with a caution - I tried them with one of the teams I manage that had no trust - and no luck so far...I keep trying and will be following these comments for more ideas.

Good luck,


robin_s's picture
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I've read both the books recommended, althought it's been quite a while on the one about teamwork.  For now things are going surprisingly well.  We've had 2 staff meetings so far, and I had the first of the O3s with one of my new DRs today.  The staff meetings have been encouraging.  We've talked very openly about the opportunities and challenges in the new structure.  The individual that people are most concerned about working with is on vacation right now, though, so this may be the calm before the storm.  I am hopeful that having a couple weeks to start building relationships with my new directs before the potential conflicts arise will help to alleviate people's concerns about the changes. 

The individual I refer to was my direct before the change, and still is.  He is a very knowledgeable producer, but has poor people skills.  He comes across as arrogant, rude and defensive.  There have been issues with him in the past, especially when he had to interact with the other division as their internal vendor.  He is still in that role, but now will be on the same team as them.  My new directs are hopeful that we will be able as a team to openly discuss quality issues in our staff meeting and diffuse his defensiveness.

I appreciate the comments and will keep you posted!  Hopefully I'll learn something along this journey that will be of use to someone else here in the future.


xcelerator's picture
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I have been in several of these situations with teams and individuals. I've tried books. They won't work if the people involved aren't committed to (re)building trust in the first place. In fact, no degree of wanting on your part will make it happen. Know that it is a process that will take time and commitment on your part.

From my experience, trust is built in stages. First everyone involved has to agree on the results that must be achieved -- the WHAT. Usually this is not the problem; no one wishes that the company / division will perform worse in the future than it does today. The disagreements come from the HOW. People believe that the way they're doing things is the right way -- change threatens that belief. Forget about the HOW for the moment. Focus on the results.

Here's my $0.02 ... find the two top performers from the teams. Clearly state a near term result that you will hold them accountable for, AS A TEAM. It doesn't have to be an elephant-sized result -- it needs to be one of the necessary bites that gets you closer. Redefining a process, finding cost-out opportunities, sizing a market niche, you name it. Now treat it as a project and regularly check on progress. To be clear, they have to find out how to do this together and report the intermediate results to you on a regular basis. Use O3's and feedback along the way to sort out the noisy behavior that gets in the way. Resist the temptation to suggest methods or means. If they come to a status meeting with an impasse, stop the meeting and send them back with the understanding that they are responsible for finding a solution together. Offer to be the coach in case they want to run several options by you.

If they are truly top performers, they will find a solution and get the first 'win' you need to get the snowball rolling. Build on that by bringing more people into the environment and holding them similarly accountable.

It will be bumpy. There will be flare-ups. Don't lose track of the results and regularly make it clear THEY are responsible for achieving the desired result(s). Hope this helps, would love to hear your opinion either way.

- D

robin_s's picture
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Thanks xcelerator, that is very actionable advice!  And I have just the two people in mind.  I'll let you know how it goes.