Mergers and acquisitions are crucibles of leadership as 83% of them fail to deliver the desired results. Those successfully directing and supporting M&A leaders clarify the objectives, plans, progress and future expectations. Three tools enable that:


1. The Investment Case – objectives.

2. The Leader’s Timeline – plans.

3. The Management Dashboard – progress and future expectations.


All three are available at


Another way to think about this is that these tools enable effective delegation by clarifying direction and resources (Investment Case), authority (Leader’s Timeline,) and accountability (Management Dashboard.)



Investment Case


The Investment Case lays out direction and resources. The leaders you direct and support should look to that for their main guidance. Often the Investment Case is pulled together before the leaders are assigned. If that’s your situation, make sure they buy into the Investment Case. It’s the foundation for all that follows and should include:


  • The core focus of the enterprise, overarching strategy and posture, strategic priorities, enablers and core competency/capabilities.
  • Organizational and operating priorities to help deliver the strategic enablers, competency/ capabilities: People, infrastructure, innovation and technology, systems and processes, balance sheet and cash flows, mergers and acquisitions.
  • The fair value of target company. The target company’s perception of its fair value. Possible acquisition prices.
  • Value creators including growth drivers (organic and inorganic,) operation improvements/operational engineering, and investments in topline and bottom-line enablers.
  • Projected improvements in cash flows to pay down debt.
  • Projected realized value in increased earnings and/or exit or recapitalization.



Leader’s Timeline


Mergers and acquisitions never travel in a straight line. Different leaders will need to pull from The Merger & Acquisition Leader’s Playbook different sub-playbooks in different orders in different situations, adjusting as they learn.

The Leader’s Timeline tool lays out the run of the show for a particular situation building on the strategic, commercial, operational, financial, governance, organizational and change management playbooks.

The M&A leaders you direct and support have to own their own Leader’s Timeline. Either they need to put it together and propose it to you or you need to co-create it with them with an eye to agreeing on who makes which decisions. In either case, this will be a living document adjusted as things change and should lay out:


  • Stakeholders: investors, lenders, directors, collaborators, internal and external teams.
  • Message built on the platform for change, vision and call to action, synthesized into a headline and communication points
  • Pre-close activities: due diligence, pre-close meetings, the announcement cascade, and required personal preparation
  • Change Management Plans for day one and early days
  • Tactical Capacity Building Blocks: strategic imperative, operating cadence, organizational evolution, and ongoing communication.


Make sure the M&A leaders you direct and support have this tool completed in advance and evolve it as they learn. As Alexander Pope said, “No one should be ashamed to admit they were wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that they are wiser today than they were yesterday.



Management Dashboard


The Management Dashboard is one of the most essential accountability communication tools. Keep it simple enough and robust enough to work for you and the M&A leaders you direct and support.

Customize the dashboard to highlight what you most care about. For example, some focus on the P&L, some on the balance sheet, and some on cash flows. Components to consider include:




  • P&L
  • Balance Sheet
  • Cash Flows


Commercial (Organic growth)


  • Volume
  • Revenue
  • Share
  • Critical Enablers and Drivers including brand strength, go-to-market capabilities




  • Cost Optimization
  • Operational Excellence through supply chain, distribution and customer chain (Quality, On-time delivery, Customer satisfaction)
  • Cross-functional System and Process improvements
  • Technology Pipeline




  • Culture Measures
  • Employee Engagement
  • Future Capability Plans
  • Talent Management
  • Talent Development (through innate talent + learned knowledge + practiced skills + hard-won experience + apprenticed craft-level caring and sensibilities)
  • Succession and Contingency Plans




  • Progress on Top Priorities including infrastructure improvements
  • Inorganic Growth Pipeline (mergers, acquisitions, joint venture, alliances)
  • Innovation Pipeline


Change Management


  • Through “Change Monster” stages: Stagnation, Preparation, Implementation, Determination – make or break point, Fruition




  • Regulatory Governance/Compliance
  • Financial Governance/Compliance
  • Board strategy, organization and operations


Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #786) and a summary of my book, The Merger & Acquisition Leader’s Playbook


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