Bringing two organizations together as (almost) equal partners

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By Heidi tenBroek | 24 July 2018


When two significant health systems came together to form a new affiliation and blend shared services capabilities, they turned to Milliman for assistance. A senior Milliman communication consultant worked side by side with key stakeholders to attend planning meetings, set strategy, and develop communications to address the dynamic and fluid situation.

There were some unique challenges with this merger:

  • The cultures of the two organizations were quite different―one a very large, regional, faith-based organization with over 130,000 employees, and the other a highly respected but smaller health system with a stronger local brand.
  • The individuals who controlled and coordinated the merger of shared services were themselves merging and their own jobs were in question. This made for a tense and stressful environment.

Both organizations understood the importance of effective communication in maintaining operations through the transition as well as for the creation of a high-functioning team going forward. The objectives for the communication strategy were to:

  • Reduce stress/anxiety and increase productivity in the transition process
  • Ensure a smooth transition in the alignment
  • Avoid communication “missteps” and unnecessary repair
  • Assist senior leaders and managers with their communication efforts to improve effectiveness and frequency
  • Create a communication infrastructure that staff feel they can trust
  • Avoid bias of one organization over another
  • Ensure all functional areas received timely information (and that some were not more “in the know” than others)


Milliman addressed these goals using a number of strategies and tactics, including:

  • Creating a simple and neutral graphic treatment to use throughout the transition – something not dominated by either legacy brand
  • Developing an “integration newsletter” that provided high-level organization-wide integration updates across more than a dozen functional areas, a place for sharing good ideas/acknowledging milestones, and a platform for increasing awareness and appreciation of the cultural identities of the legacy organizations
  • Developing a communication kit including “push” templates for email updates, “dos and don’ts” guidelines for communication, FAQs, and a high-level timeline showing where each functional area was in the process
  • Building a survey feedback loop independent of the two organizations
  • Writing a key message platform to ensure consistent messages and tone


Partnering with Milliman allowed the internal team to focus on the nuts and bolts of the integration work. Some of the communication tools and processes we designed and implemented during the transition continue to this day. In addition, as a neutral “outsider,” Milliman was able to balance the perspectives of the legacy organizations, defuse difficult conversations, and redirect key players down a more positive path.