Done right, a merger & acquisition leader’s timeline aligns everyone around what’s getting done by whom when at the leadership level. Mergers and acquisitions never travel in a straight line. Different leaders will need to pull from different playbooks in different orders in different situations, adjusting as they learn. Subtleties and nuances matter. This is why it’s so important to read between the lines.

An M&A leader’s timeline is the key to moving from the theoretically elegant to the practically useful. To download the current best version of our M&A Leader’s Timeline tool for free, click here. Now, reading between the lines:

The first three questions about why them, the investment case, and why you, get at your motivation, the heart of the value creation proposition, and their motivation. Important things to think through before tackling anything else.


Up, across and down.

Listing all the stakeholders you can think of is step one. Then, go beyond the list to identify the people influencing those stakeholders behind the scenes, in the shadows.


Everyone has the same question, “What about me?” As the leader, your message is the high concept you’ll use to organize all your thoughts to help you connect with people and move them in the right direction for themselves and all involved. Start with an external, compelling and personal platform for change. Help them picture themselves in a brighter future. Give them a way to be part of the steps to that future in line with the investment case


Due diligence, contract, initial role sort, and pre-close meetings.

Note the initial role sort is not about making final organizational choices. It’s about getting to the leadership team to get you to and through the close and early days.

You’ll want to have pre-close meetings with this leadership team to help them co-create the plans for the announcement cascade and early days. A couple of reasons for this: 1) They’ll have different perspectives that will make the plans better. 2) Tell them what to do and the best you can get is compliance. Inviting their contributions is better; but if they co-create, they’ll commit.

Announcement Cascade and Change Management

Who hears what, when, how, in advance of announcement; how announcement is made; who hears what, when, how after announcement?

Those emotionally impacted should hear one-on-one

Those directly impacted can hear in small groups – so they can have their questions answered.

Then, those indirectly impacted can hear in the more general, mass communication.

This informs who’s meeting with whom when during the early days.

Do run new leader or new owner assimilation sessions to give people a chance to ask the new leaders or owners the questions on their minds – all of which bridge to “What about me?”

Do run a learning workshop so each group can learn about each other’s businesses and cultural current realities

Strategic Imperative

Unlike a normal strategic planning workshop, this is most likely about refining, re-focusing, and phasing the investment case. Be clear on what things in the investment case are mandatory and what tactical adjustments the team can make on the way to delivering those mandatories.

Operating Initiatives

These will flow from the imperative. The key here is which ones to focus on first to generate early wins to give teams confidence in themselves on the way to achieving more in less time, ideally producing a reverse-hockey stick of results.

Organization Evolution

Now that you’ve refined your strategy and kick-started some operational initiatives, you’re ready to re-look at the organization. Cutting through all the consultant-speak, figure out what organization you’re going to need in the future and then map out and implement the steps to get there.

As Orwell taught us, all animals are created equal; some are more equal than others. Identify the very few roles that will make the greatest impact and fill them with the best people possible.

Follow Through

Don’t underestimate the importance of dashboards and tracking systems. There are always deviations. Create a culture in which people want to share potential issues as early as possible so you can get them the help they need to adjust.