How to bring M&A integration in-house
M&A delivery teams are separate from the groups that work on other business change projects in both consultancies and corporates…but are M&A integrations really different from other change projects? As an M&A consultant that always felt right to me, however the more deals I do, the more I question why it’s necessary…
When you look at each component part of an integration…a new organisation structure, on-boarding new people, rebranding, product launches, systems development…these are regularly delivered by internal business change teams. When you combine these elements together why is a different team needed?
As a programme an integration certainly has its challenges…
You’re on-boarding a group with their own culture, relationships and ways of working,
The normal ways of getting things done are put in doubt…who is making the decisions? who are the leaders? what is the new strategy?
The pre-deal secrecy and confidentially bleeds into the post-deal implementation leaving many people feeling in the dark,
Every function in the business comes together to work on the project in parallel,
The pace of change increases significantly, and
People feel insecure and under threat from organisation structure changes.
Behind these individual points is the underlying complexity and uncertainty inherent in an integration. M&A integrations attract and engage us precisely for this point.
The heart of the reason why specialist teams are needed is that it’s the very skills, experience and processes used by qualified project managers that cause them to fail in M&A…rather than following the rules, norms and structures of business change, M&A is just as likely to change the rules. That’s also a reason why M&A is such a great tool for a CEO looking to make a tangible shift in how their organisation works.
There’s one analogy which fits, but which I’m hesitant to use as at follows the ‘strategy = war’ cliché. For the most part Armed Forces need people who know the rules and can follow them. They also need Special Forces who are able to operate when the normal rules don’t apply…free from the processes, constraints and rules of normal business change…able to operate within uncertainty, clear on a few high-level objectives and principles, with the skills to flex and adapt as the situation demands.
How do you enable your internal business change teams to deal with the complexity and uncertainty in the integration of a merger or acquisition?
Three elements come to mind:
Give them ways of working outside the usual change processes: challenging your manager takes confidence, skill, timing, and a willing manager (challenging another person’s manager or team often leads to conflict between functions),
Give them coaching, support, and a clear mandate - how to respect the organisational rules and hierarchy whilst also changing it, and
Ensure the whole organisation understands the rules of engagement, and how everyone has a role to play in redefining their work.
We think your internal change teams are undoubtably up to the job if given the permission, support and clear ways of working.