10 Guidelines for a Successful M&A Integration

In years past, the conventional wisdom on the integration process advocated a slow transition. The rationale went like this: This is important. We must move slowly, carefully, and minimize mistakes. We can’t afford to overwhelm people with change.
It all sounded so logical. It seemed like such a caring approach so far as the people were concerned. The problem is, the thinking was dead wrong. Basically, employees hate a slow integration process. The approach lets problems fester, and it fails to take advantage of the energy stirred up by a merger event.
Being careful during mergers and acquisitions means moving quickly. Speed is your ally. A rapid integration approach that reflects a strong sense of urgency holds far more promise than a strategy based on caution. The mistakes that come from going fast are nothing compared to the problems of going too slow. Just imagine the impact of a 20 to 30 percent drop in the effectiveness of a sales organization when the integration process drags on for six months or so. What if the transition lasts 24 months instead of 6? What if the productivity drop is 50 percent instead of 30? Slow transitions have a significant damaging impact to the bottom line.
At the very outset, it is important to set the expectation for moving quickly through the integration process. The parent company should convey an image of urgency, demonstrating that the new regime is action oriented. The “opening moves” should be designed to illustrate the pace the acquirer intends to maintain. Appropriate initial steps communicate that the new organizational framework will not be a do-nothing, life-as-usual setup.
It also should be emphasized here that the employees of the acquired company will draw their conclusions about the parent company by observing what it does, rather than from listening to what its senior executives say. In fact, there will be a great deal of skepticism regarding what the acquirer says or writes, whereas anything actually done represents hard data.
The question that should be posed, then, is “What is fast?” Some organizations might speed up noticeably yet still fall far short of showing the metabolism needed in the integration process....