Change - Strategic Facilitation

by Tony Mann

Linking icebergs to ensure compatibility

In many situations, change fails when two organisations merge or one organisation takes over another. On the surface they may look similar: same markets and same customers. However, in Process Iceberg® terms, they may be very different. Even at the top of the iceberg they may have a different strategic focus and probably have different values. Further down the iceberg they will undoubtedly have different structures – one working through dispersed regional structures, for example, while the other works in a centralised way. Their high-level processes may have evolved differently and their systems will inevitably be different.


The Process Iceberg® of each organisation is an entity in itself and the link between them is crucial. Even when departments try to collaborate, differences between their individual icebergs can cause major problems. While the organisation itself will have corporate goals, these will be interpreted differently at department/function level. One department may be focused on revenue generation, while another may be focused on saving money (for example, sales and finance). If the two departments have to collaborate, then it will be essential that they align their objectives and high-level processes, as well as the lower levels of their respective Process Icebergs®.


How to apply

  1. The strategic facilitator should agree the format with the SMT. They may want to work in cross functional/organisational sub-groups or all to one. They may also want to tackle the economics and values (see Economic versus values imperative) in separate groups or as one task for both groups together. Whichever route they take (with the advice of the strategic facilitator), they will need to draw up two process icebergs on the wall.
  2. The strategic facilitator should then invite each organisation to identify their strategic focus and values. This is best done by each organisation/department preparing a statement about their strategic focus/objectives and values which they then share with the other organisation/department. Ideally, they will work on this before the live event/workshop. Note that the strategic facilitator should ensure that this information is not taken straight out of the company brochure, which is often only produced for the shareholders and customers and bears no real relationship with the actuality of life in the organisation.
  3. Having shared these statements, each group should critically explore any differences, discrepancies and potential sources of conflict that may be identified on (large) Post-Its™ on the wall. If there are very different foci, then the CEOs/department heads have to think very carefully about the potential for merger/collaboration. If the strategic foci aren’t aligned, then this needs to be addressed before any other integration activity. This applies equally to the values.
  4. If the strategic focus/objectives are similar or can be aligned, the groups can start to examine the structure and high-level processes. Explaining these between the organisations/departments is done in a similar way to the strategic focus. Each organisation/department should prepare an in-depth report on how it is structured (and why) and an overview of the high-level processes that enable their organisation/department to achieve their goals/objectives.

Again, if they don’t align, it is for the leader to determine what needs to be done. Potentially this will lead to cross-organisational/department projects to ensure alignment. The make-up of these project teams should involve representatives from each organisation/department.

This process should continue at every level of the Process Iceberg® until all the issues have been surfaced and have either been resolved or are subject to a board-level sponsored project. The work of the strategic facilitator is to provide the process for all these tasks and to help the leaders and project managers work through the issues to find solutions.