Utah Symphony and Utah Opera: Strategic Planning for a Merger


Companies may opt to merge for various reasons. Among other reasons include the need to reverse poor performance, to gain competitive advantage over others, and to gain enormous market share among other reasons. A proposal was put forward to merge the businesses of Utah Symphony and Utah Opera. The two companies are of different sizes as Symphony is three times larger than Opera yet the latter is more profitable than Symphony. Due to the hard financial times and the terrorists’ attacks that happen in September 11 2011, the industry faced a reduction in revenue especially from sales of tickets. Symphony, which is staid in its operations, forecasted a loss in the coming years and this called for a turnaround strategy. Merger with Opera (which is flexible to change) was an option to the company. This treatise looks at various aspects of the merger. First, it compares organizations culture for the two companies using the competing values framework. Secondly, it discusses key factors that will be critical in the new company’s culture to best ensure it supports the five year- strategic goals. Third it proposes an audience strategy for Anne Ewers to use when preparing to speak with employees. Finally, recommendations for technology tools that can be used after merger are made.

Literature review

Culture is a composite subject that fundamentally encompasses an organization’s shared values, attitudes, beliefs, assumptions artifacts, and behaviors. Culture defines all aspects of a business, both internal and external relationships. It is also deep routed such that stakeholders of an organization may not even know they are influenced by it. Scholars tend to affirm that the basis of an organizations culture is founded on assumptions about the manner in which the world and human relate (Tharp, 2009). Organizational culture types are grouped into four that is control (hierarchy), compete (market), collaborate (clan) and create (adhocracy). Success of an organization is defined by how they align culture to the organization goals. Similarly, the competing values framework is divided into two broad dimensions. The first dimension places the values of “flexibility, discretion, and dynamism at one end of the scale while stability, order, and control on the other. This indicates that some organizations values adaptation, change and organic processes while others are effective in emphasizing stable, predictable and mechanistic processes” (Tharp, 2009). The second dimension looks at “internal orientation, integration and unity on one side while external orientation, differentiation and rivalry on the other end” (Tharp, 2009). This implies that some organizations focus on their internal processes for success while others perform well by focusing on market and competition. The diagram below summarizes the two dimension of completing values framework.

Competing values framework.
Figure 1.0 Competing values framework. Source: Bruce M. Tharp (2009).

The diagram above summarizes the competing values in an organization.


The two organizations that is, Utah Symphony (USO) and Utah Opera (UOC) differ in their organization’s structure and culture. For instance, in UOC, there is only one reporting channel to the Chairman of the board. The Director of Operations, Leslie Peterson, reports directly to the General Director, Anne Ewers who thereafter reports to the Chairman. Most of the other Directors report to the director of operations. The other decision making authority is cascaded down to other directors and other staff members. On the other hand, in USO there are two reporting channels to the chairman of the board, that is, the office of the President and CEO (which is vacant) and the Music Director, Keith Lockhart. These two parallel reporting channels are cascaded down to the rest of the structure as some Directors and Associate Directors report to the two centers of power. The two structures differ in the sense that there is an indication of unity, integration and internal orientation at UOC while at USO there is rivalry and differentiation in their structure (Delong, & Ager, 2011).

Based on the first dimension of the competing values framework, it is evident that Opera has a flexible business model and with the reserve funds, it is possible to adjust the size of the business or eliminate projects that do not reach their fund-raising goal. Also, we are informed that for opera to thrive it must always be looking at new ways to survive, that is, “new way for fund raising, marketing, reaching out to the community and communicating with the public, therefore it is much quicker to adapt to change” (Delong, & Ager, 2011). Collaboration and adhocracy is evident at Opera.

On the contrary, Symphony is a 52 – week orchestra that does not have that flexibility as seen in Opera. Therefore, it is evident that operations of Symphony are stable and quite predictable as they follow the same routine year in year out. Besides, Symphony environment is “staid and therefore the organization is slow to change and not used to things happening quickly” (Delong, & Ager, 2011). It can also be deduced that there is a lot of hierarchical (control) and competition culture at Symphony. This is evident by the knowledge that the staff members are unionized and that the company has numerous external integrations with customers, legislators among others (Delong, & Ager, 2011).

Critical factors in the new company’s culture after merger

The strategic goals for the new company are working towards integrating process of the two companies, reduce overall expenses, retain key employees, and maintain audience base for both Opera and Symphony. In the present business world, innovations and flexibility are of essence for success of the business. A key factor for the new company would be flexibility and adaptability. This will ensure that the processes of the two companies are married together without chaos. Further, collaboration would be very vital for internal and external integration of the new company. This is because there is need for strong group cohesion among all the staff members for the success of performances. Therefore, teamwork, participation, and consensus would be of essence. In the business world, success means large market share and penetration. This is achieved by competitive pricing and market leadership. Since the new company would largely depend on the sale of tickets for revenue, it is of essence to retain existing and attract new audience. Competition is one of the key factors that will ensure that the strategic goals are attained.

Audience Strategy

Communication has a number of basic goals to achieve, that is, either to inform to persuade, or to impel to change, while establishing goodwill. Use of an intelligent audience strategy is the answer to successful communication in any presentation. Anne Ewers is able to take control of the situation that seems impossible if she applies good communication strategy, techniques and tools. Audience strategy basically focuses on the needs and goals of the audience. Merger of two companies with different cultures and values present its self as a crisis therefore, an able audience strategy would be very necessary to control the crisis. When preparing a message for audience in this situation, it is important to identity the staff members who will be affected most and give them priority in the message. First, she needs to know the essentials of core message before beginning to write to the audience and secondly, she need to tailor the information, argument, or persuasion to target the specific audience. The audience for Ewers are just not only employees (primary audience) but also, initial audience (the person who asked her to prepare the message), key decision-makers (these are people who have ultimate power over her communication objective, say the board of directors), secondary or hidden audience (these are people who may be affected directly or indirectly by the message say the customers) and finally the watchdog audience, they are the people who studies the interaction between her and the primary audience. Therefore, in as much as the message target the employees of Symphony and Opera, it is important for her to know that the message would be used by different players in the organization (Cameron & Quinn, 2011).

Technology tools

Technological transformations and the global market are the two major factors that define changes that happen in a work place. Besides, it is expected that technology will continue to restructure organizations and also change how businesses are conducted. Old jobs are being eliminated and replaced with new jobs which match the advancing technology. As a result flexibility and adaptability will be sought-after attributes in employees at all levels. Therefore, there is need for staff members to adapt quickly to change, work smarter, increase productivity and carry out duties that are outside their job description for them to remain relevant in the job market. The key components of technology are internet and infrastructure. During merger, technology plays an important role in ensuring that the operations of the two businesses are completely brought together and that staff members have a good understanding of both processes. As mentioned earlier, the operations of USO and OCO are completely diverse and therefore there is need to employ tools that will ensure success of the process.

First, the management should consider having intranet for the new organization. This is a secured internal or private network of an organization that connects all computers to ingress that access the internet. Development of intranet is based on internet technology such as use of HTP protocol. An intranet is restricted to an organization and its associates (customers, employees, members and suppliers among others) and is protected from unauthorized access with security systems and firewalls. Such security encryption put a stop to abuses of the system like social networking, inapt use of web, among others. A major benefit that arises from use of intranet is reduction in costs as a result of paperless environment. For instance the new organization can put out most of the documents such as policies, procedure manuals and new rules through the intranet Web pages. This saves the company costs relating to printing, maintaining and circulating such documents. Also, intranet makes it easy for communication across the organization. Secondly, the management should consider using internet tools such as VoIP and Groupware. This will provide a platform for cheap communication to all staff members as it comes with a whole package of email, chat, among others. Wireless network would be very vital as it would eliminate cost associated with cabling. These technology tools would provide a good avenue for interaction of the staff members and ease of integrating administrative applications of the two companies into one (Laudon & Laudon, 2007).


With the economic meltdown, many organizations may be forced to close down or merge with others so as to survive in the market. Merger as an option presents itself with numerous drawbacks ranging from divergent organizational cultures and values, high resistance from the staff members, inability to marry to processes, among others. A proposal to merge Opera and Symphony operation was made amid massive resistance from the community, staff members, top management and even board of directors. The two organizations have different cultures as Opera is flexible while Symphony is not flexible to change. The paper discusses critical success factors for the new organization formed. For management to overcome the resistance of staff members who fear being retrenched there have to be a proper communication to the employees. The work also talks about the strategies that Anne Ewers may use in delivering her message to the staff members from both organizations. Finally, recommendations for technology tools that can be used (such as intranet and internet tools like VoIP and Groupware) to integrate the administrative functions of UOC and USO are discussed.


Cameron, K. C., & Quinn, R. E. (2011) Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture, 22-56.

Delong, J. T., & Ager, L. D. (2011) Utah Symphony and Utah Opera: A Merger Proposal. Web.

Laudon, K. C., & Laudon, J. P. (2007). Using internet tools to increase efficiency and productivity. Essentials of Management Information System, (8), 300-410.

Tharp, M. B. (2009, April). Organizational Culture White Paper. Web.

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