The integration phase that follows mergers and acquisitions is crucial to the success of the transaction, and it’s also where things often go wrong. Here are three tips highlighted by three experts invited to class during the EMBA’s Analytic Mindset module.
Integrate people, not businesses
“During an integration, it is essential to remember that although the objectives are those of the company, integration is about people”, said Louis Hébert, co-director of the McGill-HEC Montréal EMBA program, Professor at HEC Montréal and expert in strategic alliances, mergers and acquisitions. When integrating, you should not integrate companies, you should integrate people and make sure to seek their collaboration with the company. Mobilization involves the consolidation of different teams and employees around a common vision. To do this, you must set clear goals and ensure that employees make these objectives their own. Communication is key because for people to really cooperate, they need to understand the vision, reasoning and purpose behind the integration.
Take your place in the control tower
Chantal Thibodeau (EMBA 2011) is an Integration Manager at CGI. When CGI acquired Logica, she led in the integration of IT teams around the world. She shared a very relevant analogy between integration and “Flight Plan” in aviation.
“The first integration step”, she says, “is to clearly explain the new flight plan and flight schedule to each pilot (business units or teams). Then, you have to let the pilots take control of their planes and take your own place in the control tower.” Taking this step back will provide you with an overview and will enable you to help the pilots from a distance, guiding them all the way to the landing, in order for them to achieve the flight plan. It’s important to step back, not only to give yourself the overview, but also to make sure the people in the unit know they are responsible and know that you trust them.
Chase away negativity and look for opportunities
After an acquisition, the lines of communication within the acquired company often suffer, and this causes anxiety for employees worrying about their future. Anxiety breeds rumours and can lead to a climate of negativity and criticism. Francis Harvey (EMBA 2012) had a career in the pharmaceutical industry, before his recent move to Taxelco, where he is responsible for business development and legal affairs. During his time in the pharmaceutical industry, he lived through a number of acquisitions as the company he worked for changed hands several times. His advice to anyone who’s been acquired? “Don’t give in to pessimism.” Instead, he recommends chasing negativity away and showing strength and determination, because during the integration, life goes on and the job still needs to get done. Francis goes even further, suggesting that, regardless of your own future in the company, it’s wise to be open to opportunities created by integration. For him, integration is also a unique opportunity to meet people from the same industry, who occupy similar positions to yours, and thus deepen your network.