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.
Step 1: Define M&A Integration Strategy and Guiding Principles
The first step in an M&A integration is to achieve agreement among your executive team on strategy… the integration's direction, targets, risks, priorities, success metrics, assumptions, end states, non-negotiables, and to what extent the target company will be integrated. Integration matters more in some types of acquisitions than others, and it matters more in some functions than others, depending on the rationale behind the deal. At least three months before the deal closes, the integration strategy should be clarified.
When M&A integration teams rush into planning without clarity from top management, they are likely to make the wrong assumptions, spin their wheels, and veer off on tangents. Before teams get rolling, they need clear objectives from above so they can proceed in the right direction and develop effective plans.
Senior executives should also agree on set of acquisition integration guiding principles that will help direct the actions of their integration teams. The principles (as opposed to M&A integration strategies which are deal-specific) apply to the dynamics that occur in practically every acquisition integration. Each deal has its own idiosyncratic challenges and problems but if you anticipate the patterns, the predictables, you can better manage them. And that leaves you more time to cope with the idiosyncrasies.
In this section of our website, our books, articles, and presentations cover the strategies and guiding principles that can dramatically improve the odds for integration success.