There are a variety of reasons for consolidating various creative organizations into one centralized team organization, and all relate in some way to benefitting the company overall. Generally teams will fold into the largest, most established team, which I will refer to as the "parent" organization.

A Mandate from Upper Management
Upper management generally sends the order/business driver/urgency/reason for change to consolidate existing "like" organizations, usually both domestic and offshore, within the corporation. Another reason for consolidation may be a merger or acquisition of another company. Management's expectation is generally cost savings and maximizing efficiency and effectiveness of the various departments or lines of business. In the case of an in-house Creative Services department, these could include cost savings to the internal clients your group supports, increased brand compliance, improved customer service and/or elimination of redundancy.

The management teams of all organizations involved, both the "parent" (acquiring department) and the groups folding into the parent organization owe it to their executive leadership to support and efficiently complete the integration process with as much care and due diligence as possible, and to act quickly enough to prevent this action from becoming a distraction to business operations.

The parent organization charged with developing a consolidation strategy and work plan to execute the integration requires a period of dedicated focus working with their executive leadership. This should provide a road map for the integration and keep disruption to a minimum. The strategy defines what will take place for the integration to be achieved, along with the sequence and timing. The work plan defines all the tasks that must be executed to complete the integration.

The importance of the Creative Leader for the integration cannot be underestimated. You will be the person who selects the integration team members, who should have good reputations within the company for completing assignments responsibly.

Factors for Successful Integration Outcomes

  • Establish a vision that identifies what the "new" organization will look like after the integration is completed. Integrations fail or are sub-optimized because there is no clearly defined vision of what the "new" organization should look like after the integration is completed.
  • Identify the integration team (with members from all organizations) and full-time commitments from selected team members. Many integration teams consist of only part-time members and lack an executive-level leader who is held responsible (with the team members) for the success of the integration.
  • Stay on course to ensure the execution and implementation of the integration does not waiver and stays on course until completed, as defined in the vision. In too many cases, the execution of an integration loses momentum as team members are pulled away to do the "real" work and true integration never occurs.
  • Foster Two-Way Communication. Consolidations generally create a level of uncertainty for some time. Addressing any concerns from your customer base can be accomplished very quickly with a message to them announcing the consolidation and articulating the benefits they will receive.

  • For employees, the task is more complicated. A consistent and concise message to employees should be communicated, highlighting and outlining any changes that may be forthcoming.

    Implementing the Plan
    Just like any change initiative, consolidation needs to follow a carefully developed plan with the Creative Leader of the parent organization leading the effort. The process must include frequent reviews with his/her senior management to assure that the process is on course and problems or obstacles are addressed quickly and effectively.

    Throughout this process, the Creative Leader cannot lose sight of the business objectives and outcomes sought by executive management. The benefits to be achieved from the integration must be defined and communicated to the integration team, customers and employees who will be charged with executing the plan and achieving the defined business and economic benefits (i.e., major cost improvements, consolidation and/or organization realignment, asset utilization, revenue enhancement).

    Specifics of the plan will differ, but need to include the following components:

    1. Alignment with Purpose & Values
      Time must be spent discussing the fundamental purpose of the company (mission and vision) and how they will operate (values). Every organization is different and integration will most likely involve some type of shift in purpose and values. This is best accomplished in two phases. First, in a general message from a senior executive (preferably a C-level executive), and then follow up by smaller group discussions led by the Creative Leader and HR representative.
    2. Leadership Alignment
      Each organization has a leadership style. Determining the leadership style of the consolidated organizations and beginning to bridge the gaps or to transition the acquired to the style defined by the parent organization takes time. At a minimum, it is important to work with leaders at all levels of the acquired department(s) to ensure they understand the desired behaviors and possess the values of the new organization. Obviously, expect some turnover. Some people will leave or need to be replaced when it is determined that they are not capable, or do not desire, to change their style to fit in the new organization.
    3. Interactive Communications with Employees. Ongoing communication is critical to address the normal response of being acquired. This should be a two-way process that includes use of organizational blogs and other interactive message carriers. You may also consider a confidential survey.
    4. Define the "New" Organization. There may be some blend between groups; however the parent organization will set the tone in terms of leadership style. Devote the appropriate time toward understanding the cultures of the legacy organizations and how the new culture will be moving forward.
    5. Define and Build a Change Roadmap. It is interesting how frequently the details of culture change are ignored until it affects the bottom-line or market value. Suddenly, all the best laid plans through budgets, forecasts, projected cost savings, etc. lose some luster because the one thing that drives all of these financial tools has been ignored--people.
    6. Define and Translate the Vision into Behavioral Competencies and Measurable Factors. The implementation of the roadmap is the most critical aspect of the culture change. It is taking the breadth of the envisioned new culture, adding the details of how to create the envisioned future and indicating specific steps and behaviors that must occur. Hence, milestones and measurable indicators of success and progress must be created and tracked.

    All in all, the smooth consolidation of creative teams into one centralized organization is a multi-faceted process that requires strong leadership, clearly defined goals, a detailed roadmap and frequent, transparent communications and consultations with all parties involved. Every instance is different because of the differing "personalities" of organizations, but following a set of guidelines like those above will make your task easier to initiate, implement and track.

    Also see "Some Splinter Groups Exist for a Good Reason."

    Has your organization been acquired or merged with another company? If so, how are topics like brand identity, creative strategy and organizational structure being addressed? If you have are experiencing similar challenges and are considering outside counsel contact us to learn more.