The Issue:

The workforce is morphing at hyperspeed. Every day new research and reports demonstrate that the workplace encompasses people from more and more different:

Racial, Ethnic and Religious Backgrounds
Age Groups
Sexual Orientations
Nationalities
Social and Economic Class
Political Persuasions

And this is just the beginning list!

Plus, even in recessionary periods, merger, acquisition and reorganization activities occur at a very rapid clip. Marketing material and websites fall out of date quickly as players enter and leave organizational relationships at a dizzying rate.

Merging Cultures is a one day program for organizations that want to reflect on the nature of their cultural dynamics and the impact that they are having on effectiveness. Based on the break though thinking of Barry Oshry and his associates, Merging Cultures is an upbeat, fast-paced way of getting into complex and sensitive topics affecting every organization.* Merging Cultures is a non-punitive program. It doesn't assume that anyone is right or wrong. What it demonstrates is that there are certain predictable dynamics that are set in motion by cultural difference and M&A activity. Leaders who pay attention to these inevitabilities are going to do a lot better than those who don't. The very high failure rate of merged organizations and the recurrent tensions between people who don't understand each other culturally proves that every day in the news.

The Program

Designed for groups from 20-50
Two cultural groups are created very quickly. One's a minority and the other is a majority. They are given a common task to work on. But, they approach the task very differently because of the distinctions between their cultures. The task is fun, fast paced and not connected to anyone's everyday job.
Everyone is given time to practice what it's like being a member of the cultural group that they belong to. These grouping will be familiar because they are built around some well known "Northern Hemisphere/Southern Hemisphere" distinctions.
At some point the groups are merged and both the minority and the majority cultures talk about the experience of being thrown together through a structured reflection process call a "Time Out of Time" (TOOT)
An input on "Dominance and Otherness" opens up understanding and discussion of common tensions between majority and minority groups
A second exercise simulates the Merger and Acquisition experience. After reflection, participants join one of four groups that has a cultural identity closest to how they see themselves. Each group develops the character of its culture. People enjoy this because they are in agreement with one another. Then an acquisition or merger is announced. If it's an acquisition, one particular culture dominates over who will be chosen to be part of the new organization.
Participants argue for their participation in the new entity by describing how their culture adds to the "robustness" of the whole system. Everyone will have had a chance to share ideas about the nature of a healthy and robust system as a result of participating in an interactive input on this subject.
The day ends with a set of custom designed reflection questions and planning discussions that connects the ideas and experiences of the workshop with the conditions in the participants' home organization.

Results

A reduction in the interpersonal tension that results from people being blind to the impact of system forces on individual behavior
Greater appreciation for cultural difference
Insight into the way in which differences add to organizational effectiveness
Building relationships and networks that span professional, organizational and cultural boundaries
Specific personal and organizational plans for action

* New Context conducts Merging Cultures under a license from Power and Systems Training.