Cross-border post-acquisition knowledge transfer among construction consultants
Journal article, 2004
Mergers and acquisitions among engineering consulting firms and other professional service organizations occur frequently. International acquisitions should pose challenges because of corporate and national barriers of culture. The purpose here has been to study the relative influences of technical and cultural heterogeneity on knowledge transfer in a post-merger situation where offices in two countries are involved. In 2001, the UK-based WSP Group - providing management and consultancy services to the property, land and construction sectors - acquired J&W, a leading engineering consultancy firm in Sweden. Two technical disciplines, rail and contaminated land, were selected for this survey. Four offices, two in each country, participated with eight consultants in each place. The survey shows occasional, two-way knowledge exchange taking place 16 months after acquisition. Face-to-face meetings, e-mail and technical business gatherings are perceived as the best transfer mechanisms. The presence of knowledgeable customers differs between disciplines and seems to explain differences between transfer patterns. Among metrics for knowledge transfer, the number of international joint projects is assigned the highest rank. Consequences for the choice of organization of knowledge transfer, as well as the measurement and communication of progress in knowledge transfer, are identified.