Per our earlier article on A Merger & Acquisition Leader’s Playbook For Success, avoid the traps of 1) poor strategic focus, 2) poor cultural integration and/or 3) poor delivery of synergies by leveraging the full playbook and its seven sub-playbooks: Strategiccommercialoperationalfinancialgovernanceorganizational, change management.

This article focuses on The Change Management Playbook and its components of integration leadership, practical change management, communication, the announcement cascade, and adjustments.

Integration Leadership

Complex change management efforts through points of inflection like mergers and acquisitions go better with others giving leaders leverage by managing the change processes. These “others” have different titles in different organizations. Here’s one set of definitions:

Leaders inspire, enable, and empower others.

Deputies are second in command, empowered to act in their superiors’ absence.

Chiefs of staff give leaders increased leverage by managing them, priorities, programs and projects, and communication. Where a deputy has some direct power, a chief of staff’s power is all indirect as the voice of the leader.

A project management office (PMO) conceives potential programs and projects, helps prioritize and define them, assembles resources, communicates and coordinates within and across, facilitates key meetings, tracks milestones, analyzes results, and initiates appropriate process improvements.

Transformation or integration leaders, or chief transformation officers manage chaos as key points of contact, accelerate process by helping executive staff manage, architect success by providing focus and direction, and personally drive the change on major issues.


Practical Change Management

The second component of the change management playbook gets at practical change management —after you’ve got your integration leadership in place.

At a very high level, once those working for you have had their “What about me?” question answered, pivot to inspiring, enabling, and empowering them.

In change management A x B x C > D, in which

A: platform for change/reason for change

B: envision self in a brighter future/goals

C: call to action so they can be part of solution

D: inertia

Note the math on this. If you leave out any of the platform for change, vision, or call to action, you’re left with zero chance of overcoming inertia.


Change Communication

Be deliberate about your ongoing communication efforts.

Everything communicates. Everything. Even the things you don’t do and don’t say send powerful signals to everybody in the organization observing you.

Because we live amid a communication revolution, the guidelines for communicating are changing dramatically. As much as you would like to treat communication as a logical, sequential, ongoing communication campaign, in many cases you must manage it as an iterative set of concurrent conversations.


Announcement Cascade

The announcement of a merger or acquisition will impact different people differently. Some will be emotionally impacted. Some will be directly impacted. Some will be indirectly impacted. Some will be less impacted. The announcement cascade is how you manage how they hear the news differently while making sure to answer the only real question on everyone’s mind: “How does this affect me?”



Things change.

Once you’ve implemented systems to track; assess; adjust daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually; and thought through your ongoing communication, don’t confuse communicating with operating cadences. Do avoid the public company sprint to do things just ahead of quarterly earnings calls, instead, staying ahead of the curve at all times.

Ideally you will have put in place a balanced scorecard to look at destination, objectives, strategic links, initiatives, and measures by the following segments:


  • Financial
  • Customer
  • Internal business processes
  • Learning and growth


Recall, you’ll likely want to follow up


  • Daily for individual tasks done by workers (or more frequently in a crisis)
  • Weekly for projects managed by first-line supervisors and made up of tasks
  • Monthly for programs managed by middle managers, made up of discrete projects
  • Quarterly with overall business reviews so senior leadership can adjust priorities and resource allocations along the way for things like information technology, infrastructure improvements, new product launches, hiring, and the like
  • Annually for core process cycle perhaps doing talent reviews in Q1, strategic planning in Q2, future capability planning in Q3, and operational plans in Q4


Focus on strategic, organizational, and operational issues and opportunities with appropriate governance and culture as your foundation.


Click here to request a free executive summary of The M&A Leader’s Playbook book.


Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #783) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.


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