Those leading through a merger, acquisition, or the like do so to create more value faster. They look for revenues to double or more on the way to returning many times their initial investments. Maybe you’re driving or leading the investment. Maybe you’re leading the business itself or playing a supporting role. In any case, you need the appropriately phased timeline.

Simplified Leader’s Timeline

Two insights:

The 83% of mergers and acquisitions that fail, generally fail because of i) poor strategic focus, ii) poor cultural integration, and/or iii) poor delivery of synergies.

Mergers and acquisitions never unfold in a straight line. This is why successful leaders pull from the seven different sub-playbooks that make up the merger and acquisition leader’s playbook in different orders in different situations: strategic, commercial, operating, financial, governance, organizational, and change management.

As noted in my earlier article on the three key M&A tools, The Leader’s Timeline tool lays out the run of the show for a particular situation building on the seven playbooks. Create a timeline. Own it. Recognize that it will be a living document adjusted as things change and should lay out the following (Click here to request a free copy of the complete tool):

Investment Case

It all starts with the investment case. This is part strategic playbook, part commercial, and part financial. Ideally, the investment case considers customers, capabilities, and costs—in that order. First, it gets at how you’re going to win with customers. Then it lays out the leadership, team, and capabilities required for that. Finally, it lays out how to fund those efforts by cutting less valuable efforts and their associated costs.

Due Diligence – Contract

These are foundational governance steps, checking your assumptions around synergy value creators, cost-reductions and time-savers and cultural compatibility and then working through a deal.

Change Management I & II: Initial Role Sort – Announcement Cascade

Robust change management is essential for cultural integration, begins well before the close and really never ends. Let’s split it into parts, dealing with activities before and around the close here. We’ll pick up on more after we talk about the imperative workshop and operational initiatives.

Pre-close change management begins with an initial role sort to get to the team that will lead the organization through the close. Even if you decide not to make any changes at this point, think it through and tell the leaders they’re on the initial team. In a merger or acquisition, everyone has one question, “What does this mean for me?” Until they know they are safe for the moment, you can’t expect them to apply their best efforts to anything else.

Change management continues through pre-close meetings to align that leadership team on expectations and messaging for different stakeholders as well as to plan out the announcement cascade for who will hear what, when and how, day one/early days meetings, new leader/owner assimilation sessions, learning and imperative workshops. All that is important on its own.

The other thing about pre-close meetings done well is that you’re co-creating the plans with the leadership team. If you tell them what to do, the best you’ll ever get is compliance. If you invite them to contribute, they will contribute. But if you want them to commit, they have to co-create.

Imperative Workshop

This is a chance for the new owners and leadership team to refine, re-focus and phase the investment case, aligning on the near-term imperatives for the business. It’s a true pivot point, drawing on all seven of the playbooks.

Operational Initiatives – Milestones

The operational initiatives turn theoretical strategies into practical, value-creating actions. Then you get what you measure and track with a milestone management process.


Change Management III: Organizational Evolution

Once the milestone management process is in place is a good time revisit your organization, making decisions about your team – then implementing appropriate changes over time.

  • Assess the senior leadership team(s).
  • Ensure alignment of senior leadership team with the new imperative’s strategy and culture.
  • Identify the very few people in the organization who will drive 80% of EBITDA.
  • Design an incentive system to reward “stars.”
  • Conduct future capability planning to prepare for the organization of the future.
  • Reinforce all with on-going communication.

Evolve as you 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.

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