Magic Merger Moments – Guest blog from Sara Dixon – Firm Beliefs

What will be the ‘Magic Merger Moments’ for the new organisation? ‘ Who cares’ I hear you say. ‘Let’s just get there.’

There are a number of critical outcomes to a merger that occur AFTER the merger that need to be integrated into your pre-merger planning.  Of those organisations with which we have worked both pre and post merger, it is the identification of those MMMs that will drive success (however defined) of the merger.

Let’s face it. Most of the work pre-merger is exhausting.  Exciting yes; worrying yes.  Exhausting, certainly.  It is all that most executives can do to hang on to the merger date in their sight lines and plough through the project plan of critical processes and priorities that will get them to that date.  Come the merger day (let’s assume it’s the legal merger moment for now),  claps of hands,  slaps on the back, maybe some champagne/a few beers down the pub, a bit of PR and it is home to rest.

And energy levels are pretty low for a few months after that.  Yes – perhaps working with new folk, in a new environment possibly, new stakeholders can drive a person onwards.  There is an element of excitement to that that brings its own energy and drive.  But the reality is that, unless critical outcomes are already integrated into the new organisation’s processes and priorities BEFORE merger, the chances are they won’t happen.  Executives won’t have the energy.

Which is why the successful mergers are ones where the  post-merger moments are pre-identified, planned for and integrated into the organisation BEFORE merger.

It sounds obvious, doesn’t it; but so often it is lacking.  Even amongst the most management-skilled organisations.  Size, too, doesn’t matter! Organisations large and small; known and less well-known; driven and failing – ask them about their magic merger moments (or rather ‘what will be the proofs of success in the post-merger organisation’) and most times a blank look ensues.  Try it. Ask them.  The ones who didn’t have to think of them post merger are the ones with the biggest chance of the merger fulfilling all they planned.

Your magic merger moments could be:

  1. That all staff are happy using skype (or whatever the integrated new system is) – how will you measure that post-merger? In other words, a recognition that real merger happens when staff ‘feel’ as one.  Listen for the use of the word ‘we’.  Plan for it BEFORE merger. How will you make that happen?
  2. That your post-merger income begins to grow.  After all, most mergers see a downturn in income post-merger for a period of time.  Plan for when the upturn needs to happen and be prepared to use metrics that demonstrate that over time.  Plan for that loss and upturn magic merger moment BEFORE merger.
  3. That all stakeholders increase their relationship levels (be they clients/suppliers/the bank/donors/investors) POST merger.  All too often key stakeholders are left out of the equation when planning a merger.  Plan PRE-MERGER for their approval and continued and growing involvement with the new organisation.

I could go on.  Every organisation is different. The project plan will look different.  The priorities will differ. The comms plan will vary.  But what every organisation must plan for is ‘what will success of this merger look like?’  Identify those Magic Merger Moments BEFORE merger and plan for them. Integrate them into your project plan.

Our work with both successful and failing merged organisations tells us that it is a question of always having the basics in mind from the birth of the very idea of a merger . And the most basic is the identification of success – those Magic Merger Moments.  Easily lost amongst risk reports, stakeholder forums, legal issues,  integration of systems, PR and publicity.  And numerous other issues to consider before merger.

So make life easier for yourselves. Think of it now – what will success look like? Plan for it. Design it into the pre-merger plan.  That way, when your execs are post-merger tired, exhausted and incapable of really planning for success other than the bare minimum, you have your ‘Magic Merger Moments’ already on the way, and can celebrate each one.

About the guest blogger – Sara Dixon

Sara qualified as a solicitor in 1991 and, after six years in practice as a commercial litigator, with a specific interest in environmental law, she left to study for an MBA.

Since gaining her MBA, she has been involved in helping law firms and charities enhance their profitability and effectiveness by concentrating on their clients, their people, their finances and their information systems. She also specialises in developing the business and management skills of all those who work in organisations – whether in technical and professional roles or in administrative and managerial roles.

Sara and Branko designed, developed and delivered the Lexis NexisManagement Skills for Lawyers’ programme.  Sara has also designed and delivered an International Human Resource Management and Employment Law module at the Ministry of Defence Training Academy.

She is also part of the ACEVO Consulting pool of experts. Sara is a fellow of the RSA, a member of the Chartered Institute of Management and Management Consultants and a member of the Law Society of England and Wales.

Sara was one of the founder members of the Finance Against Trafficking charity project which involves businesses working together to support the drive against the negative impact human trafficking makes upon business and society. She continues to be involved with other businesses, including clients, who appreciate the need to be sustainable – financially, environmentally and socially.

Contact: Sara Dixon or 01296 620006


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