The following remarks were made by Ian Mansfield,president, Telus Communications Inc, at the CMC Series 2000 Business Solutions Leadership Forum in Toronto on June 15. They have been edited for brevity. Click here for the full speech.. I am going to share some of the lessons we at TELUS have learned about mergers, and why you need to put people first when you are going through the chaotic and often painful process of merging two companies.  Ours was a "merger of equals" which is the hardest type of merger. We began with two very similar firms, BC Tel and Telus. In the interests of preserving harmony, it was decided neither culture nor organizational structure would be imposed from one firm onto the other.  Because we needed to meet legal "pooling of interests" requirements, we could not have an executive management team made up of people predominantly from one company or the other. It had to be an even split. And, although the legal requirement only applied to the executive team, it was soon evident that employees expected the entire management selection process to produce an even balance of managers from each company. At Telus, after well over a year, we’re still working through issues related to our merger, and we’ve picked up some fundamental learnings on our journey. The number one lesson is to expect the unexpected. At Telus, we did not foresee the resignation of our new CEO and president George Petty, along with several other members of the senior executive – all within the first eight months.  A key learning from this experience is to look carefully at executive employment contracts for the people coming together in a merger. They should be consistent and they should be structured to ensure a reasonable period of continuity, maybe 18 months or so. Two important decisions that faced us early on were of particular interest to employees, and to many other stakeholders, the choice of a name for the company, and the location of our headquarters. Choosing the Telus name caused a lot of resentment among our BC employees. The decision was the right one, and employees eventually came to accept that.  Similarly, choosing Vancouver as the headquarters for Telus was a blow to our Alberta employees, especially those in Edmonton. Although moving the head office directly affected only a small number of employees, it caused a huge degree of unrest. And not just among employees, but among Edmontonians in general. Telus is the largest private employer in the city, and there’s a lot of civic pride associated with corporate head offices.  From early on, we recognized we needed help to make our merger a success. I would encourage anyone who becomes involved in merger discussions to bring in the experts as soon as possible. It is impossible to anticipate and prepare for all the challenges ahead, without having experienced and impartial advisors on your team. Bridging the cultural differences Consolidation is the easy part. Integration is the challenge. Even with all the similarities, the cultural differences between BC Tel and Telus were significant.  To do it again, I would make sure I had a good understanding of the cultural differences. A cultural survey using identical questions and measures for employees on both sides of a merger would help identify some of the issues right from the start. Looking back, I would also have established what I call the "rules of engagement" – a common language for conflict resolution right from the beginning. If people can’t talk together without misunderstanding, they can’t resolve problems, and the whole process bogs down.  Mergers and acquisitions occur for business reasons, but underlying their success or failure is the human element. In my experience, there are a few basic things that can be done to help employees feel more comfortable and continue being productive throughout the merger process: identify and address the cultural issues as soon as possible communicate as much as possible, as often as possible, and to as many employees as possible make sure employees have equal access to information concerning the progress of the merger get people from the two organizations working together on projects immediately to create personal relationships and networks and ask employees for their help and engage them in important tasks.  Throughout a merger, communication with employees has to be your top priority. One of our most effective employee communication tools was a merger progress site on the company’s Intranet. For the better part of a year, the site detailed the progress of the merger and our integration efforts. The site included an area for questions from employees. We also launched a discussion forum on the site – a self-regulating ‘chat room’.  Mergers are hard. There is no way around it. After nearly a year and a half, our employees have put the turmoil and uncertainty of the merger behind them, and they’re more committed than ever.