Mulligan Stew. A traditional dish thought to have originated with poor Irish (“Mulligan,” get it?) immigrants whom, managing through tough times, would literally throw whatever they could find into a pot, boil it up & serve. Potatoes, onions, carrots, squirrel, ham, cabbage….you get the idea. Sounds freaking horrible. It IS freaking horrible.

With that knowledge in hand, my sainted Irish mother will still try to serve up Mulligan Stew once a year. THIS is the power of tradition; five generations removed from Ireland, my Mom is still sticking to a few of the “non-negotiables” that define our heritage. Even the gross ones.

The image of Mulligan Stew hit me when discussing a culture issue with a client. I don’t think any of us will argue with the real “power” of company culture. In no way is that more apparent than during the merger integration process, where seemingly insignificant “traditions,” values, habits, and behaviors begin to undermine the success of the merger itself. Instead of prioritizing the critical non-negotiable values and/or “flash points” (Pritchett, Culture Integration) at the front end, we are left with this….a big stinking pot of Mulligan Stew.

(Once again, it bears repeating – Mulligan Stew is horrible.)

The question is, how do you reverse the recipe if you’ve already gone through the process? How can you remove 95% of the ingredients (personally, I’d start with squirrel) to leave the essential components of the new entity?

In the weeks to come, that’s the question we’ll try to answer. “We,” in that you are the people who have lived this experience, or you may be living through it as we speak. Where do we start?

*Editors Note – No squirrels were harmed in the posting of this article