Going the Distance

Selim Loukil
Head of Portfolio Support Group, Europe
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast“
Selim Loukil

Think about it: two large technology companies of similar sizes that we need to merge together. To truly merge; this is not a take-over of one by the other. More than 10,000 employees all over the globe to engage and mobilize. Different business models and a very diverse customers base.

And, above all, the immense task of taking two (or even more…) different cultures and blending them together in order to create a new, unified one.

There is a saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It was with this in mind that we decided to invest in a very special and targeted approach on culture early on in the integration. We wanted to leave the past and egos behind, while planting the seed of mutual respect, understanding and team bonding. So we took the integration team on an amaseu journey.

At Advent we don’t only invest in businesses to generate great returns. For us it’s about building great companies. By taking a majority shareholding, having a hands-on approach to our investment and working together closely with the management team to determine the best way forward. That’s the way we like to do it.

There are several things you can do to make this happen. Supporting management to design value creation plans, resourcing the business with the right talent, ensuring the proper housekeeping is in place.

In addition, developing a very clear strategy is vital, so that over the next five years - and beyond - all the noses are pointing in the same direction and everyone knows what the company is expected to achieve.

Measures like these obviously help, but they only get you so far. If you really want to take things to the next level, you have to address behavior and culture. Which means developing people. Logical really: they are the ones responsible for bringing strategy to life and driving its success.

To develop people you have to first make sure they are ready for it. They must undergo self-reflection and become receptive to change. They have to open up and be honest about who they are and what they want. This is a difficult enough process on its own, but becomes even more challenging when you're expected to do it in your normal working environment, with its inherent distractions, interruptions and limitations.

That is why I think the amaseu journey formula is so effective. It is a very subtle process. I personally remember those silent moments in the forest, the MEPS discussions, peer-coaching and the spicy dialogues. These shared experiences have helped us create our new culture.

So much has been achieved since our integration journey. The new organization has been rolled-out worldwide, the joint company has a new name and ‘story’ to tell, employees have been engaged across all locations, and the execution of synergies is well on track. We can all be proud of that.

  • Going the Distance

    “The power of silence connected us on a whole new level, as true humans, heart to heart.“
    Pim Mol
  • Going the Distance

    “If you want to grow a business, you have to grow people. There is no other way. You can’t grow a machine.“
    Tex Gunning
  • Going the Distance

    “There is a difference between having a strategy and having people actually own it.“
    Floris de Kort
  • Going the Distance

    “I'd even go as far as saying that if you want to build a great company, you should send your leaders on a journey.“
    Frank D'Hollander