Highlights of a GAO Forum:

Mergers and Transformation: Lessons Learned for a Department of Homeland Security and Other Federal Agencies

GAO-03-293SP: Published: Nov 14, 2002. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 2002.

Additional Materials:

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J. Christopher Mihm
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The early years of the 21st century are proving to be a period of profound transition for our world, our country, and our government. The federal government needs to engage in a comprehensive review, reassessment, reprioritization, and as appropriate, re-engineering of what the government does, how it does business, and in some cases, who does the government's business. Leading public and private organizations in the United States and abroad have found that for organizations to successfully transform themselves they must often fundamentally change their culture. On September 24, 2001, GAO convened a forum to identify and discuss useful practices and lessons learned from major private and public sector organizational mergers, acquisitions, and transformations that federal agencies could implement to successfully transform their cultures and a new Department of Homeland Security could use to merge its various originating components into a unified department. The invited participants have experience managing or studying large-scale organizational mergers, acquisitions, and transformations.

There are a number of key practices that have consistently been found at the center of successful mergers, acquisitions, and transformations and can serve as a basis for subsequent consideration as federal agencies seek to transform their cultures in response to governance challenges. These practices to (1) ensure top leadership drives the transformation, (2) establish a coherent mission and integrated strategic goals to guide the transformation, (3) focus on a key set of principles and priorities at the outset of the transformation, (4) set implementation goals and a timeline to build momentum and show progress from day one, (5) dedicate an implementation team to manage the transformation process, (6) use the performance management system to define responsibility and assure accountability for change, (7) establish a communication strategy to create shared expectations and report related progress, (8) involve employees to obtain their ideas and gain their ownership for the transformation, and (9) build a world-class organization.

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