A merger naturally produces a fair share of problems. Employees of the merging companies maintaining separate identities, conflicts over ways of working, fear of further retrenchments, perceptions of a leadership vacuum, low morale and disillusionment, poor and insufficient communication.

Syngenta, a merger of Zeneca and Novartis agro-pharmaceuticals, was no different. What was different, though, was that they decided to tackle the issues head on instead of ignoring them, and -in line with management’s policy of working with and consulting employees- they brought in Lance Bloch & Associates to take their whole company, approximately 20 at a time, through a 2-day workshop in Rustenburg to build a new identity, corporate culture and sense of community. Most mergers fail precisely because these “people issues” are not dealt with. One of the key tasks was to express and let go of old legacies, unhappiness and divisions so as to “cross the line” into the new company and its new values and cutting edge principles. Remarkable too was top management’s openness to adopting every one of our recommendations made in a report back to them on all the workshops. One of the results was that a workshop was held at Mt Everest Lodge in Harrismith to build real unity and direction within their own team. The team itself discovered the benefits of Umhlangano processes to deal with issues and build a new values-based culture, and agreed to run these throughout the company. Over a 2-day workshop 20 internal facilitators were taught to manage conflict and facilitate Umhlangano’s themselves.

A celebration for the new company and a “crossing the line” ceremony were held at the Brits plant, which included company awards and the whole company drumming together in harmony.

FEEDBACK: This highly successful programme had the following impressive results:

In the year of these programs Syngenta SA had the best results and improvement of any Syngenta company worldwide.

Cementing improving business results

Building a new unified Syngenta culture

Better motivation and attitudes

Ratings of participants from the whole company after the workshops: 71% Excellent, 27% Good, 1% Average, 1% Poor

Jenni Bailey, HR Manager at Syngenta, says: “After the workshops held over a 6-week period, there was a tangible change within the organization. The majority of interpersonal relationships have improved. The process of change within Syngenta is ongoing but Lance has assisted in creating the momentum and giving us strategies for success. As a company we have no hesitation in recommending Lance Bloch to any organization needing to address change challenges.”

“The workshops and Umhlangano’s have enabled us to build enough trust and ability to engage with each other to enable us to start with World Class Manufacturing. This would never have been previously possible.” Alan Smith, Factory Manager.

In addition, a visiting British Syngenta manager was absolutely stunned at the level of engagement, discussion and problem-solving evidenced by all at the Brits factory, when witnessing an Umhlangano facilitated by us.

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