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14 principles for success during a merger

Last January, Community Care Physicians and CapitalCare Medical Group merged to create the largest, independent multispecialty medical group in the Capital Region of New York State. Both groups use Allscripts and share a common vision to use innovation and technology to improve the patient experience and provide greater access points for patients.

But as anyone who has had a front-row seat to a merger knows: integration is no small task. As we prepared for and implemented projects, I kept a log of some of the principles that helped our teams stay focused and positive during the consolidation, including these:

1) If you say YES, say why. If you say NO, say why. This approach helps maintain credibility. Always demonstrate logic and data behind communications and decisions.

2) Keep on your orders until you have new orders. It is essential to complete work and only change direction when there is clear communication to do so. Too often people abandon or delay projects in anticipation of a future change that may not materialize.

3) I will not lie, cheat, or steal; or tolerate anyone who does. I started my career in healthcare as a pharmacy specialist in the Air Force, and I continue to embrace this honor code for the US Military Academies. Honest environments enable leaders to make better, more effective decisions.

4) Present all the facts. It is more likely we will agree on action with facts as the common element.

5) Always throw the ugly stuff right on the table with positive energy. It’s not to be hidden.  This way we can all focus on how to fix or improve it.

6) Involve all stakeholders in decisions. For example, we worked with site managers to approve a go-live process and provide dates for upgrades. Involving them in these decisions helps gain buy-in from everyone. Make sure you provide transparent reporting to all levels, especially ones below your station.

7) Document plans and decisions. Do this actively during meetings to establish understanding, define accountability and provide reference for decisions. Keep a record of WHY a decision was made; the collective often forgets the details and this can help.

8) Run to opportunity, never from a problem. If you leave a position to merely escape a difficult time, it will have a destructive impact on your character and your ability to handle challenges. It takes great leadership to lead when times are difficult; anyone can lead in easy times.

9) Finish what you start. If you get into a habit of abandoning work – as a department, company or individual – it creates a cycle of failure. 

10) If your peer fails, we all fail. We are accountable for each other’s collective success. We build trust by helping each other succeed and doing all we can to support the work necessary to achieve the department and company mission.

11) Climb, Communicate, Confess, Comply. This is the FAA procedure for a pilot that may be lost. It is a good rule of thumb in many situations, especially those with potential risk:

  • CLIMB:  Take a step back and account for the situation
  • COMMUNICATE:  Reach out to others to get advice
  • CONFESS:  Provide information necessary to the listener to make the decision. If you, for example, accidently deleted a directory, disclose this.
  • COMPLY:  Take advice and involve others in the resolution

You cannot succeed if you are unwilling to seek help and aid from others.

12) Be unapologetically progressive. If others are not being progressive, this is not license for you to run with the status quo. Chase constant improvement.

13) Work projects from a single pane of glass. It is important for projects – especially those that involve different groups, locations or cultures – to operate with a plan that everyone can see, access and use.

14) Death before dishonor. If you find yourself in a compromising position, take a break. An outburst or other negative responsive will haunt your career. Seek to understand and never assume ill will from others. You must always conduct yourself with honor.

These are just a few of the principles that have helped our teams successfully integrate with one another. Mergers can be complex and challenging, but they are great opportunities for growth and delivering greater value. Not just for our organizations, but for ourselves as employees and (most importantly) for the patients we serve.


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