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The frustration of the empty loo roll...

There is nothing more frustrating, not to mention inconvenient, than to find the loo roll is empty and nobody has replaced it.  Our frustration is further aggravated when, in the past, this kindly act had been automatically performed by someone else without prompting.

The question of whose responsibility it is to change the humble loo roll provides a key insight into why many mergers and acquisitions fail.  (A staggering 90% fail to deliver their return on investment according to some researchers.) There are many reasons for this high failure rate – the deal could be wrong, or market circumstances could change. 

However a major cause of failure stems from the simple fact that the cultures of the two businesses are different.   

When change plans are drawn up, attention is always paid to addressing the overt ‘rules’ that govern a business.  What is our new sales process going to be?  Which IT system will we use/eliminate?  Whose premises will the new combined business operate out of?  What do we need to achieve to trigger bonus payments?   And who is in charge of what? 

Culture represents the ‘unwritten rules’ by which the company actually operates ie who changes the loo roll.  Where once we knew that ‘someone else’ would always do this, we are now left frustrated that, since ‘they arrived’, it has ‘all gone to pot’. 

The cumulative effect of many small irritations can quickly have a significant negative impact on the smooth running of the new combined business.  People spend more and more time being frustrated, angry and allocating blame, which leads to underperformance of the new combined business.  And far more damaging, the best people – the most able ones and the ones on whom the future value of the business depends – simply leave. 

Paying attention to seemingly ‘insignificant’ contributes towards the smooth running of the larger scenario.  Remember Mr Micawber’s advice from David Copperfield – that the ‘pennies look after the pounds’?  

So what is your ‘loo roll’ story?  Email me at  Alternatively if your business is going through changes, give me a call to arrange a ‘Change MOT’.  This will review your change programme and highlight key actions that will make a difference to achieving your return on investment.


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