Leading Cultural Change - Changing culture after acquiring a new team

Todd Gagne

Ex - SVP of Global Products at Concur



Concur bought a new company, and I was expected to integrate my original team with the new company. The new company was based in Atlanta and had around 100 employees. However, it had been mismanaged and their culture was very different to that of Concur. Culture is key in engineering teams, as it dictates how people work together, communicate, how everyone pulls together, and creates accountability.

Actions taken

I spent a lot of time evaluating talent and then restructuring the team. This consisted of spending time evaluating how things were running in the new team. I tried to take a light touch, as we had just bought the company and I didn't want to further destabilize people. I did this by ensuring that I was clearly communicating my high-level vision so that I could get buy-in. Next, I interviewed all of the senior managers, and following this up with skip-level reviews to work out what was and what was not working.

Out of this, I was able to gather a library of information about the major issues that were occurring and I was able to assess their order of priority. Following this, I defined our goals and laid out how I would ensure accountability. It was clear that there wasn't good alignment, as the new company's organizational structure wouldn't work well with Concur's structure, there were a lot of cultural deltas, and their goals and objectives weren't aligned with ours. Once you have this information you can come up with a practical plan, can start to get buy-in, and can work on shared goals and objectives. This can also consist of performance improvement plans and investing in skills and training for good engineers with skills gaps.

Lessons learned

Changing culture dramatically is extremely difficult. When you see issues such as cultural fit, or performance problems, the sooner you deal with them, the better off you will be. Many engineering projects require this approach, but because the original team's and the new team's cultures were so different, this was crucial. While this process was ultimately a success, it was much harder than I had anticipated. I can't emphasize enough how clear and consistent communication makes leading change easier. Many times I felt like I was saying the same thing over and over again but it takes time for everyone to hear the message.

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Todd Gagne

Ex - SVP of Global Products at Concur

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingPerformance ReviewsTechnical ExpertiseSkill Development

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