Merger Strategy, Cross-Cultural Involvement, and Polyphony

Marita Svane, David Boje

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Structured Abstract:

The strategy is dynamic, however the cross-cultural polyphonic dynamics were ignored, with dire consequencs. Our purpose is to explore how the organisation tries to make sense of the happening through storytelling and how the leadership practices may change due to the learning from the experience. By storytelling we mean the dynamic interplay between grander narratives of the past and more emergent living stories of participants. Living story is ontological in its Being-in-the-world, its aliveness primordially in lived-life from birth to death. In this case it is the birth to life threatening death of a merger. Grander narrative (Lyotard, 1968) requires living story to be a proper "imitation of an action that is complete in itself, as a whole of some magnitude... Now a whole is that which has beginning, middle, and end" the definition of coherent narrative (Aristotle, 350 BCE: 1450b: 25, p. 233).

We present a dialogic performance of the cross-cultural dynamics of a merger. The context is a two-year old merger. The merger was strategically a good decision that takes into the consideration that the market is highly competitive with a decreasing number of customers and many competitors. The industry is therefore characterised by a high degree of mergers and acquisitions. Despite the strategic advantages the idea of the merger was not equally attractive to both of the organisations. They had a history of being competitors with a good deal of hostility. One of the main tasks for the new manager was to begin a new strategy process to develop the company and to build bridge between the two companies. He aimed at developing a shared strategy that all members of the organisation could identify with. In order to make the strategy of new company shared, he involved all members in a social construction process, giving room to the voices of both of the organisations. Despite this practice and at a certain point, a whole department decided over the weekend collectively to leave the company and join a competitor. This came as a shock to the company leaders and gave birth to retrospective narratives about the happening. We are studying how diverse living stories are emerging and developing. At the same time the retrospective narratives of the past are coming into conflict with the living story ways of constructing and reconstructing the organising and leadership practices of the company.

We found that the happening strengthend the multivoiced process as the groups from the two organisation became closer, found more directionality, and shared identity. However, they ignored the impact of power relations. There were signs of strong disagreements and an upcoming crises, but these signs were not taken seriously. Learning to understand power relations has become a major issue to the manager. After the split, the fights in the living story arena are continuing and has now expanded as the customers are beginning to take part in the storytelling. The web of living stories keeps expanding as the conflict escalates. The manager is thus struggling to restore trust and image through a centripetial narrative internally and externally to the company.

Research Implications:
The research implications are that it is the dynamic relation between centripetal (focusing) narratives and centrifgual (expanindg living story webs) that can be traced in the ongoing process. Shotter (2012: 2) says that a profound conceptial shift is need to a process approach that engalis as well "a shift form living out or lives in inter-action with the others and othernesses in our surroundings to livng within intra-actions with them; a shift formliving in a world of already made things to a world of things-in-their-making; from as being only 'in' certain things (organisms) to things having their life only 'within their reaations' to the flowing processes occurring around them." The limitations of the study are it is about a single merger, and we do not intend to generalize beyond that. At the same time, it is the study of the lived experineces in the moment of event-ness of Being-in-the-world that has the specificity to unravel interesting mysteries. For us the mystery is the relation of the heteroglossic forces that Bakhtin's polyphony approach allows us to study.

Practical Implications:
Our Bakhtin analysis has these practical implications. First, the grander narrative its monologic the manager created in the internal and external community, was incapable of briddling the polyphony of devices, the proliferation of ever more living stories, expanding the web of differences (Bakhtin, 1984). Gadamer (1975: 367) makes the point that "to conduct a dialogue requies first of all that the partners do not talk at cross purposes." The living story web expanded in ways that so may cross purpose proliferated, no single monologic narrative would contain the storm.

Originality of the paper:
We look at the polyphonic manner of living story (Bakhtin, 1981:60) in the context of merger gond array. The merger becomes thoroughly dialogized, until the grander narrative is intiatied to corral the excissive hegeroglossia (ibid.: 273). Jorgensen (2007) stressed that power separates otherwise dialogic relationships that cans till deal with critical issues. In short, the value of the paper is in showing how such an ideal did not materialize.
TitelIACCM Conference 2014: "Between Cultures and Paradigms" University of Warcick, England, 26-28 June : Intercultural Competence and Managerial Intelligence
Antal sider19
UdgivelsesstedWarwick, Storbritanien
StatusUdgivet - 2014
Begivenhed13th IACCM Annual Conference: Between Cultures and Paradigms - Intercultural Competence & Managerial Intelligence - University of Warwick, Warwick, Storbritannien
Varighed: 26 jun. 201428 jun. 2014
Konferencens nummer: 13


Konference13th IACCM Annual Conference
LokationUniversity of Warwick


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