Integration after a merger

Most of us in our careers go through phases where the companies we work for merge with another as a result of M&As. Integrations after an M&A are always complex, and often stressful events. As I reflect on some of the experiences I have had, a few key lessons stand out in my mind that I believe would benefit every integration team.

A disclaimer – these are no more than my personal learnings from being part of a couple of due diligence, and post-merger integrations – they are in no way comprehensive or universal. I have drawn these specifically from two mergers that I have been involved in, one was a success – and the other was a disaster … both had capable people with good intentions, but a few things set them apart – and those in my mind, made the difference. In both cases, I came from the acquiring company, so these points are also from the perspective of someone from the acquiring organization, who is a part of an integration team –

  1. Empathize, and show it – Taking a leaf out of the design thinking playbook, spend time to understand what your new colleagues are going through. They are probably anxious, nervous about changes, about losing their way of working – or even their place in the organization. Show genuine interest to learn what they do, how they work – what problems they face. You will grow your knowledge as well as win friends.
  2. ‘We’, never ‘you’ – Always refer to the combined organization as ‘us’, or ‘we’ … never use these terms to mean the old structure where you came from – and never use ‘you’ for the new members.
  3. Bring your old team along in the journey – If you are a part of an integration team, and are busy working with the new organization – it is sometimes easy to neglect your old colleagues. Make an effort to include them in discussions, ask them for ideas – keep them up to speed with what is going on. reassure your old team as you work towards making your new team feel at home
  4. Don’t patronize – Probably the biggest potential pitfall to watch for … do not come across as patronizing to either your old team or new. Always let them feel that you don’t think you know more, or you have more power just because you are working on integration
  5. 5. Finally, build trust by communicating openly and transparently – trust has to be earned, and the only way to earn it is by sharing information as candidly as possible.