Surviving M&A: A Personal Roadmap

Surviving M&A: A Personal Roadmap

07.26.17Patrice Murphy

Treat the merger as an opportunity

Most of the business writing on mergers and acquisitions is clinically detached from a first-person perspective. There is plenty about the strategic, financial, legal, operational, and organizational issues that arise – but almost nothing about how to survive M&A as an individual. Having spent 20+ years helping make post-merger integrations work in the US, Europe, and across the world, we have some practical tips for how to navigate the turmoil and emerge with your career and psyche intact.

When my Schaffer Consulting colleagues wrote the Harvard Business Review classic “Making the Deal Real” they identified four key lessons and the core disciplines needed to plan and execute a successful integration that delivers all the promise of the deal. Since then, with vastly more experience we have confirmed and deepened our understanding of what makes a merger successful on day one and day one thousand. We have defined the critical role of the integration manager, and shown how to extract a merger dividend in the form of stronger leadership by getting everyone on the same page, executing with discipline, and building a new A-team.

Still, the whole thing can feel very, very personal.

At the same time that you are helping your team through the process, you may feel anxious about your own future in the combined company. You may be uncertain about job options, how your skills stack up, and who the key decision makers will be. You may be unsure about what the culture of the combined organization will be, and whether you will be happy if you stay. In the fourth article in our M&A series, Schaffer’s Ron Ashkenas and co-authors offer the following tips for personal success in this challenging environment.

Making the most of the disruption that often accompanies post-merger integration starts with a clear understanding of where you land in your very own SWOT – an analysis of your personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The format is easily adapted to this situation, as shown in the template here. Use this to honestly assess your assets and deficits, what you value and what you would prefer to leave behind. The combined picture will point you to opportunities you might pursue, and gaps you may want to quickly address or steer away from.

The next step is to seize professional growth opportunities that present themselves, especially if these are in the ‘transition’ structure of committees and working groups formed to steer the combined organization. These structures offer a chance to demonstrate and develop your skills in rapid execution, innovation, and collaboration – and to see and be seen by leaders on both sides of the acquisition (especially important if you come from the acquired side of the deal).

For example, you might have unique knowledge of the operating division or marketplace that is a particular target of the acquisition. This can be leveraged in an integration team looking to tap that knowledge to maintain seamless customer contact through the integration and quickly understand and attack opportunities for growth. You might have specific technical knowledge that is missing in the other company. Or you might be looking for an opportunity to change course and find a way to contribute on an integration team across functions. Even if you do not stay with the organization, the integration experience may provide you with a bridge to a new role somewhere else.

If you have not been invited to participate in a transition team, you may need to find an opening by clearly expressing your interest through HR, the integration manager, a current member of the transition team, or even your boss if you think he or she will be supportive. This is not the time to be quiet. If you are interested in remaining with the organization, you may need to knock on doors to win the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and learn about the combined organization from day one.

The idea is to be proactive in assessing your situation and seizing opportunities that arise from the merger to advance on your chosen path. You might stay or you might leave. Either way, by treating the merger as an opportunity to survive and thrive, you can emerge stronger, clearer about your career direction, and ready for an exciting and rewarding new role.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of post-merger integration, from C-Suite planning to personal preparation, feel free to contact me or my ICG colleaguesin Europe, or Schaffer Consulting in the US.

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Patrice Murphy guest post at Integrated Consulting Group

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