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Key Steps For Successful Post Merger Integration
How can one make something as complex as a post-merger
integration succeed, keeping employees and customers happy and engaged on
top of the already high workload? Acquisitions can be stressful and
complicated in the best of times. Integrating cultures, processes,
people, systems, and customers is a daunting task and one that can easily
result in complications and punishing mistakes.
Critical Success Factors
Assign one person from each area to be accountable for everything in their domain (and empower, then enable them to own that accountability by working with the appropriate management team). This requires a list of each function – which, is harder than you might think; can you articulate each discrete function in your department that might be needed to ensure a smooth integration of dozens of new customers and staff and all the accompanying processes? This will lead to a key realization: don’t ask the senior managers – they are too far removed from the daily processes. Ask the people on the front line or the front line supervisors. Bringing in people “further down the chain” is a critical part of success.
Ask integration team members and incoming employees lots of questions, and challenge their assumptions. Do this by holding frequent integration meetings that include employees of the acquired company (2-3 times a week for 30-60 minutes). Each question, no matter how simple, reveals the deep complexity of each task. A good technique is to ask the question “why” or “how” 5-7 times for every assertion. This can force a more detailed level of critical thinking and uncover overlooked details.
Keep everyone informed. There is a lot of secrecy during the period of time acquisitions are evaluated, negotiated and executed, where transparency outside a small deal team is impossible. Integration is a different phase where increased communication and transparency should be the norm. In the absence of updates from the integration team, people will make assumptions and fill in their own theories. Remember that acquisitions are stressful – emotions can run high, and people will speculate on what is going to happen. Keeping people informed of the status of the integration is an easy way to avoid potential problems. Having a comprehensive (and documented) communication plan is a critical part of a successful process.
Benefits & Metrics
The easiest way to measure the success of an integration operationally is to look at how things are working:
Incoming customers. How do customers feel about the transition? Were they informed during the process? Did their expectations in terms of service get met (or, hopefully, surpassed)? The key here is to ask them – either through a survey or by talking to them directly.
Incoming associates. Are the incoming associates able to do their jobs? Do they feel comfortable? Do they have someone to go to with questions? Are they learning the processes and cultural norms of your organization? Again, frequent communication is key.
Existing associates. Do existing associates understand the new company and its products? Are they absorbing and welcoming their new colleagues?
Operational metrics. Are the normal operational metrics keeping up? Is there a dip in productivity?
If any of these areas show warning signs, it’s important to investigate to understand the cause of the problem and take steps to address it. It’s easy to forget things or let things slip during the integration process, but most things can be remedied once a problem is discovered and acknowledged.
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