The 2014 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

The editors of MIT Sloan Management Review are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize, awarded to the authors of the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development published from fall 2012 to summer 2013.

This year’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize goes to the fall 2012 MIT SMR article by Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly entitled “Making Mergers Work.”

The authors examine why mergers and acquisitions so often fail to achieve the results and synergies they promise. The article argues that much of the difficulty lies in the failure of executives of the acquiring company to seriously consider the quite different ways that not only operational but also psychological integration between previously separate corporate entities can be achieved.

In the view of the judges, this article offers a pragmatic but novel perspective on the familiar and vexing problems managers face in merging organizations successfully. Bouchikhi and Kimberly point out that there is no single “one best way” in this domain and that integration can take different forms. They identify four broad approaches to what they call “identity integration”: assimilation (where the identity of the acquired company is dissolved into the identity of the acquiring company); confederation (whereby the identities of the acquired and acquirer are largely kept distinct); federation (where the identities of the merged companies are partially preserved while an overarching identity for the new organization is also created); and metamorphosis (whereby merged organizations are fused to form a new corporate identity).

Bouchikhi and Kimberly note that identity integration takes time, and they give examples of cases where what begins as one type of merger may over time develop into another type. The authors also suggest that managers would do well to conduct what they call an “identity audit” in conjunction with acquisition efforts to identify identity issues that may affect post-merger integration. “Operational integration post-merger is a necessary but not sufficient condition for successful performance,” Bouchikhi and Kimberly write. “Careful attention to identity integration is also essential for success.”

This year’s panel of judges consisted of distinguished members of the MIT Sloan School of Management faculty: Schussel Family Professor and chairman of the MIT Sloan Management Review managing board Erik Brynjolfsson, retired senior lecturer Cyrus Gibson and Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management John Van Maanen.