“The branch, which from the first grew together with the tree, [… ] is not like that which after being cut off is then ingrafted, for this is something like what the gardeners mean when they say that it grows with the rest of the tree, but that it has not the same mind with it.” The Meditations By Marcus Aurelius – Written 167 A.C.E.
Some think that gardening is about nature and letting things grow wild. However, our gardens are planned, sometimes in an inventive way by creating new plants by combining existing plants.
One technique used for gardens is grafting whereby one plant is separated from its own roots, then attached into the roots of a more vigorous plant. This new plant will be stronger and produce more fruits than either of them. For example, most European fruit varieties have difficulty surviving the long, cold Canadian winter, so they are often grafted onto local robust trees which enable them to resist the harsh environment.
I use grafting at the foreign company I work for in Japan by banding together companies to get better results in the global market. Like plants, businesses must merge and grow to survive in today’s more competitive and complex market than ever before. Like grafted plants merged businesses need attention.
What can we learn from grafting that we could use for business and leadership?
At the time of grafting, the two parts of the plants are cleaned, cured and assembled, which allows the fluids to flow easily between them thereby connecting the plants.
It’s the same in business where information and communication must flow between companies. For mergers to succeed there needs to be a strong integration and organizational alignment allowing people of both companies to share the same tools and information, backed by a solid IT infrastructure and detailed integration plan.
Companies also need to pay attention to the balance of power. The same is true when branches are formed by grafting, if one is too strong it can overwhelm the other branches and take over the tree. Therefore, a capable and skilled overseer is needed to ensure that all the branches survive, or else the project will be jeopardized thus making grafting useless.
Merged companies should stick to the business model that they first agreed on, and not slip back to the model used by the local company. The reason they joined together was to blend their strengths and grow larger and more powerful in the global market.
After closing is Post Merger Integration
Once an M&A is completed, the next phases are therefore crucial of what is put in place during the Post Merger Integration (or PMI) phase. It requires much effort in generating effective synergies plus a collective relationship to achieve the original goals of the M&A project. This involves all functions and processes.
Additionally, businesses need to be careful to its cultural and leadership differences to avoid bottlenecks and cultural misunderstanding.
Like grafting, the most important factor to succeed is what is done after the merger and jointly caring for the garden to make it grow. In other words, looking at each other as constructive partners.
The illustration above is one of a series of trees grafted by contemporary artist Sam Van Aken, called the tree of the 40 fruits. Each tree grows over 40 different types of fruits including almonds, peach, apricot, cherry and plums. Every spring the tree’s blossoms are a mix of different sorts of red, pink, purple and white.
Now more than ever companies need to blend their strengths to succeed and move forward. This integration doesn’t happen by chance.