Seed World

4 Growth Stages to Focus on After an Amalgamation

Eight months ago, my organization went through an amalgamation to create one national, not-for-profit organization representing Canada’s cereals sector through the joining together of Cereals Canada and the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) to form the new Cereals Canada.

A brief history on our coming together.

Cigi was formed in the early 1970s by the Canadian Wheat Board and the Government of Canada with the purpose to provide quality assessment for customers, customer support and market development services for Canadian wheat in particular.

Cereals Canada was formed in 2013 following the dissolution of the Canadian Wheat Board. The purpose was to be the umbrella organization for the cereals value chain to provide support in areas of innovation, market development, market access, as well as advocacy and awareness.

Just like is happening in all industries, there has been much change in the grains sector over the past number of decades. As we looked to find efficiencies wherever possible, we were well aware that both our organizations carried out complementary work. We collaborated for many years on market development and support files, specifically our New Crop Missions, which we conduct every year to meet with our customers and talk about the quality and functionality of the new wheat crop. We also had some overlap between both the membership and the board representation from the two organizations.

We now have one organization that has all of the expertise within the cereals sector, to serve as the single point of contact for both our members as well as our customers. We work really closely with other industry associations, and now as the new Cereals Canada, we can really work together within our membership to provide a collective value chain perspective for our customers.

Our board structure is split 50/50 with representation between industry and farmers. We’re fortunate to have representation from producer groups, life science companies, grain handlers and export companies as well as end use customers and processors.

As you know in the seed sector with the formation of Seeds Canada, these mergers don’t happen overnight. Our merger also took almost five years.

Now that it’s happened, it’s provided an opportunity to break down some of the operational silos between the two organizations and allow us to work together more effectively. We are the one-stop shop for any cereals files, whether they relate to market development, technical support, market access, policy issues, or research and innovation.

It didn’t come without challenges. As we went through the amalgamation process, it was important for us to remember the “forming, storming, norming and performing” model of group development first proposed by psychologist Bruce Tuckman in the 1960s.

  • Forming. This is when you first form the new organization. To grow from this stage to the next, each member must relinquish the comfort of non-threatening topics and risk the possibility of conflict.
  • Storming. In every new group, there are kinks to iron out. Tension, struggle and sometimes arguments occur. This is normal, but it’s important to recognize, address and move forward to the next stage.
  • Norming. At first, your members may be so focused on preventing conflict that they are reluctant to share controversial ideas. All new organizations must get over this so that all team members can have the ambition to work for the success of the team’s goals and develop healthy norms for the group.
  • Performing. This is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. With group norms and roles established, your team members can now focus on achieving common goals, often reaching an unexpectedly high level of success.

These stages are all part of the merger process. What’s important to remember is that you’ve already cleared the biggest hurdle yet — successfully coming together.

—Victoria Linden is director of research for Cereals Canada