4.2 Year 0, part I: Merger preparations with the NAC (2002)
4.2.1 Enthusiasm at kick-off
The (new) start of merger preparations was characterized by enthusiasm and a high spirit. The two authorities shared a dislike of the previous merger preparation process, which just had been cancelled. Now, the process would involve personnel much more, and there would not be extensive cut-downs. The kick-off in May 2002 illustrated this initial enthusiasm very clearly. Some of the promises that were made, and expectations that were raised during these days, were later neglected, according to personnel.
The merger preparations kick-off took place at conference facilities in Nynäshamn, just outside Stockholm, on May 15-16, 2002. More or less all personnel from RRV and PA participated. Expectations on the new merger process were high. One reason was that it had been agreed that the two organizations would be allowed more influence in this process than the previous one. Another reason was that it had been agreed that there would not be considerable downsizing, as suggested in the previous merger preparations process. The delegation (Swedish:
beredningsdelegation) assigned by the Committee on the Constitution (Swedish: konstitutionsutskottet) first held a presentation, where they reassured personnel in these two matters. “We will not go berserk.”, they explained. They emphasized the importance of everyone participating in the process, and sharing their knowledge, opinions and ideas:
We are dependent upon you to see what is necessary in the organization. […] Don’t let anything grow, that is on its way of going wrong.
During the kick-off, there were many references to the previous merger preparation process. The Director-General at RRV said in a speech that:
May 15 is a turning point after what has been, for example March 4, the ‘Wet Blanket Meeting’ at Polstjärnan.
Polstjärnan (in English “the North Star”) was a conference facility where results from the previous preparation process had been presented.
As I have explained, these results were met by heavy criticism. The expression the “Wet Blanket Meeting” (Swedish: våta filt-mötet) was used repeatedly and most employees appeared to agree in their dislike of this process and especially the way that it was managed.
“It shows that these people are really committed”, said Rachel (the RRV Director-General) about the delegation. She also explained that:
It is good when Unckel and the others say that they do not know, because they don’t. Unckel was full of insight when he said that we do not hide anything, we have no hidden agenda, because we haven’t.
Unckel was one of the two senior men in the delegation. Personnel appeared happy to hear this. However, Rachel, also emphasized that it was necessary to anticipate some trouble: “We cannot predict what will happen here.”.
Christopher (the PA Director-General) expressed support for this standpoint, and so did Bonnie (Director of Human Resources at RRV), who led the kick-off. Bonnie emphasized that even if the merger process would sometimes appear heavy and troublesome, it was important to remember that:
It is about love – to the job, the work place, connections. Therefore it is wrong to say ‘such boring people that have objections’.
In group discussions, personnel summarized their wishes and thoughts, concerning the merger preparations. Out of the 23 groups, 16 had mentioned choice of offices as an important matter.23 In many of these,
23Summary from kick-off, addressed to the Secretary-General of Parliament Anders Forsberg, from the RRV and RR Directors-General (May 24, 2002).
it was explicitly requested that all employees should have their own, individual office. The importance of these was also affirmed by the in-house survey, using mentometers.
Other issues that were often emphasized were the importance of a generous budget for the merger and for the new authority, the importance of involvement or influence (Swedish: delaktighet), dialogue and openness in the merger process, and the importance of competence in the new authority. Many expressed relief that the new authority would not need to start by cutting down.
An in-house survey was conducted (composed mainly by Bonnie), using mentometers. One of the questions was:
How important is it for you that decisions regarding to operations and the organization are anchored with all employees?
Almost half of all employees who responded wanted to participate in decisions concerning their own part of operations, and 38 per cent wanted to participate in every kind of decision. Only 2 per cent did not want to participate at all. See Table 2.
Table 2. Votes from PA and RRV personnel, regarding to influence, in an in-house “mentometer” survey May 16, 2002
1. Very important, I want to be part of everything. 38%
2. It is enough that managers and unions are part of the decision
3. I only want to be part of what concerns my part of the business. 48%
4. I don't care, the tasks are most important. 2%
Survey question: "How important is it for you that decisions regarding operations and the organization are anchored among all employees?"
Another question concerned what employees found motivating in their work, see Table 3. Interesting assignments was the most important motivator for 56 per cent of respondents. Another option was similar, but referred to the development of the employees’ own competence.
Together, these (options 2 and 4 in the Table) were summarized to a total of 72 per cent, all considering interesting and developing work assignments as the most important factor.
Table 3. Votes from PA and RRV personnel, regarding to motivation, in an in-house survey May 16, 2002
1. The salary 17%
2. Exciting and interesting work assignments. 56%
3. Contributing the societal development, and that citizens find our
work useful. 11%
4. Feeling that I can develop my competence. 16%
What motivates you in your work?
The relationship between RRV and PA personnel and managers appeared to be very good at the kick-off, and there were both high expectations on the process, and an awareness that the process would have its share of problems. At the dinner following the first day, a PA employee said:
It is as if we in the little family come to visit our big bunch of relatives.
Or as big brother and little brother.
People around him, from both RRV and PA, smiled and agreed.
To sum up, personnel at RRV and PA came together in their aversion to the previous merger preparations process, and this also united personnel and management. In sharing this dislike, and wishes for a participative merger management model, all parties came together. The parliamentary delegation was aware of this and promised a new process, where personnel’s wishes would be taken into account. They emphasized at the kick-off that “each of you is important”.
Because RRV and PA were the only two authorities in the country who conducted national audit, it was easy to relate to each other as a family - especially the individuals conducting performance audit. One reason could be that they often shared a similar educational background.