Aligning Cultures

Jo Geraghty


Aligning cultures

Date added: 29th Apr 2014
Category: Aligning Cultures

The Pfizer move on AstraZeneca is just the latest in a wave of mergers, acquisitions and restructurings which has hit the worldwide health care industry in recent months.  Driven by a combination of tighter controls on drug costs and the rise of the ‘generic drug’ market; the industry is seeking ways to reinvigorate innovation without spiralling costs.

Whilst a lot of the talk around the proposals has centred on the tax and financial benefits potentially arising from any acquisition; there has also been speculation about the impact of a merger on the research and development of new drug treatments; specifically on whether this would impact AstraZeneca’s relocation to Cambridge.  But there is another aspect of the proposal which has raised speculation in some quarters, and that is the challenge of aligning the cultures between the two organisations.

Every organisation has its own unique culture which reaches deep down past the day to day surface interactions and into the DNA of beliefs and behaviours.  It is what makes one organisation successfully innovate or provide exceptional customer outcomes whilst another fails.  Addressing the need to align cultures following a merger is often way down on the leadership list and yet it is one of the main reasons why mergers succeed or fail.  In a multi-national industry which relies on innovation and agility to keep new and effective drugs flowing from the pipeline, if cultural alignment fails it could be the equivalent of turning off the tap.

According to some reports Pfizer hasn’t always been successful at addressing cultural alignment issues but has been working on that aspect of mergers in recent times.  Speaking to The Telegraph a source that “In the past there were companies where there was nobody left [soon after the deal was done]. They got to Pfizer and decided they didn’t like it. But we’ve got better at doing these acquisitions over the years.”

A takeover which is later written off in the accounts or the start of a world-leading success story?  Every merger, every acquisition starts with the promise of something great; whether it succeeds or not is down to culture.

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