By Price Pritchett

I’ve been thinking.  We need a more colorful classification system for how companies go about the merger integration process.  You know, a new nomenclature.  So I sat down and did some reflection. 

Going through my memory bank, I pulled up some of the most common patterns I’ve seen as companies are acquired and merged.  Since so many deals go bad due to a mangled integration, I decided to start by categorizing the dysfunctional approaches.  Here, in no particular order, are my top four:

“Hair on Fire”

This is a fire-fighting approach to merger integration where management, reacting to the tyranny of the urgent, lurches from crisis to crisis.  For lack of planning and discipline, impulse rules.  Priorities are constantly changing, resources are poorly allocated, and people lose their bearings.  This produces a lot of wasted motion and unnecessary stress.  The integration process becomes a high-strung, confusing drill that keeps the organization off balance as management continually responds to the last pressure point.

“U.S. Department of Integration”

Bureaucratic organizations embrace a “big government” approach to integration. They’re slow-moving, territorial, and procedure-oriented, putting undue faith in the myriad merger rules they’ve concocted to regulate the situation. Executives justify this approach on the grounds that it’s prudent . . . that it reduces risk. But their preoccupation with process results in in a sluggish integration that actually increases the odds of failure.

Execution suffers as managers grind along according to their precious rules and politics, sacrificing all-important speed and flexibility on the altar of the bureaucratic cookbook ...