Beyond the numbers
Factors that require transformation are now more prevalent. The number of external events that can influence business is greater than ever and will only continue to grow. Companies can no longer count on protracted constant business models. Because of the speed of change in markets, technologies, and global integration, corporations must either adapt or give way to new players.
Companies are formed and reformed with greater speed and frequency. The business environment is in constant flux.
This is the ‘new-normal.’ While transformative events are disruptive, they are also powerful contributors to economic viability. They drive ingenuity, innovation, productivity, and long term economic growth. The global economic system depends on them to maintain prosperity and they are a critical part of economic expansion.
Ways to address foundational changes include launching a new business, changing operations of an existing business, expanding into new markets, acquiring a new business, and divesting an existing business. Each event has one thing in common: each requires rethinking a model that was previously ‘set in stone.’ Even acquisitions that incrementally add to the portfolio have inherent risk and require transformational thinking.
Acquisitions usually make headlines, particularly when they are either large or hostile. They are transformative, exciting events with impacts to competitors, suppliers, customers, and employees. They can have far reaching influences on people and industries, making them one of the more covered areas in trade publications and media.
While much work goes into assessing and negotiating an acquisition, the merger process has barely started when the deal is inked. What follows is what can be described as “organized-chaos” – a series of events with many complex underpinnings. Many months or years will pass before victory or defeat is acknowledged. And the course of events will be one of the most challenging periods in the careers of the management teams.
While the price and strategy of the acquisition sets a general plan for the company, the integration effort will uncover myriads of items that were glossed-over, ignored, or unidentified in the best due diligence sessions. It is reasonable to expect surprises on day one. After all, information gathered during due diligence is not always audited, or even vetted. And sometimes the acquirer will practice selective engagement once the answer they are looking for is given.
Integrations are also fraught with confusion. Emotions ranging from optimism to disillusionment are common. People will try to assess their counterparts, wonder which role they will play, how their job description will change (or not change,) and what it means to them personally. Egos will be bruised, even if they do not show it. Attrition will be higher. Processes will be lacking, or just beginning to formulate. Tensions
will be high. Transformations are not usually simple and tend to be disruptive to day-to-day operations as well as to the lives of each person involved.
Ensuring that a transformation is executed properly requires leadership to set the tone early, remain optimistic, anticipate that there will be problems, even if you do not know what they are, avoid blaming others in public, set cadence status and invite wide audience, clarify leaders for functional integration areas so they can lead smaller-group cadences, and make sure that everyone remains focused issues. This may appear intuitive but it can prove elusive within an ambiguous environment. These basic leadership traits can serve as a foundation from which to
build organizations, adjust plans, and avoid stagnation.