According to various research and a Harvard Business Review report, the failure rate for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) sits between 70 percent and 90 percent.
Marc Lore President & CEO, Walmart.com | Founder & CEO, Jet.com in his LinkedIn article Empowerment after Acquisition makes this observation: Often after one company buys another, you hear leaders talk about how they’re going to empower the executives of the acquired firm, we’re going to leave them alone, we’re not going to mess with their culture, I just want them to keep doing what they’re doing. If you simply tell them to keep doing what you’ve been doing, you take away the exciting part of their careers – the part where they face new challenges and experience the sense of accomplishment that comes with finding inventive solutions.
Mergers and acquisitions are tough – that’s why so many fail; not because on paper they were not a sound business move, but because little or no attention was paid to the people involved in the M&A.
Case Study 1: Some years ago, a major financial organization relocated its back-end functions to a superb new site 100s of kilometers away. Families were relocated, tempted by significant financial incentives. The rumor mill was in overdrive suggesting this was part one of an inevitable M&A. The relocated staff couldn’t settle, families were splitting, staffers were not performing as well as in the past and the business was suffering.
As an independent consultancy, we were brought in to work with the relocated teams. My first question to senior management was is the business to be sold the response was no. I suggested the CEO speak directly to the staff via video link to assure them.
A few days after this assuring video link took place, the headlines announced that the business had been sold. Maybe there were sound business reasons for this – but no one was thinking about the impact this breakdown in trust would have with the employees.
For years after this the company floundered. Lessons were learned but at the cost of family breakups, loss of trust and the failure of senior management to put people before numbers.
Case Study 2: When approached by a major airline to facilitate a merger, they explained that they wanted to use an independent third party to be the buffer between the various parties. They determined that this would remove any emotion from the merger and subsequently declared how valuable this approach had been. Further, they requested every team leader, manager, and senior decision maker complete the DNA Behavior Natural Discovery process. They needed to understand the impact such a merger would have on their people. Armed with this knowledge they could make plans that ensured their people migrated successfully and that the business of the airline continued without a hiccup. Not only did this build significant trust it also encouraged the other parties to the merger to complete the same process. All parties now understood their people and could manage the merger more effectively.
There is nothing more empowering to any business than to demonstrate trust and transparency. People are smart, just set out a vision and point them in the right direction and they will be successful. Sometimes the path they take might be different from what you expected, but that’s the nature of individuals. There is nothing more rewarding than watching a group of talented people all with different personalities come together to resolve a situation.
This kind of releasing and empowerment is made more effective when individual personalities, communication styles and behaviors are known.
- Communication: messages need to be relevant to the audience. During periods of uncertainty, people want to know whats going to happen to them. Further, knowing in advance how people wish to be communicated with, ensures messaging is heard and understood.
- People react differently under pressure. Knowing this up front makes managing any potential hot spots easier.
- Some people thrive on change, this awareness could help leadership identify useful ambassadors to support the messaging.
- Leadership that is weak (or who absent themselves from the process) lose credibility very quickly. A leader who projects energy, is honest and clear in keeping the people informed, is far more likely to hold the teams together.
- People before numbers as a mantra is more likely to bring success to any complex change such as M & A.