In practice: Learnings in M&A


Learnings from M&A In Practice

” Mergers are hard….but the true work begins after ther merger occurs”. Riwka (Rif) Hagan

“Larger organisations are missing the “gold” when they buy out smaller, innovative players and then let them leave. The real value was the people.” Carolyn Grant, People Plus Science.

All too often, by the time we are learning from our mistakes in mergers and acquisitions it is too late to do anything about it. In this webinar with Riwka Hagan, we were taken on their journey of trials and tribulations to a successful merger.

I had the privilege of listening to Riwka (Rif) Hagan at a “Take on Board” webinar hosted by Helga 
Svendsen. Riwka was sharing her experience during a merger as a director of a Community Services organisation where the CEO and board had decided that in order to deliver a more comprehensive and much needed services to their communities – they needed more. On their third attempt – they were successful on a long five-year journey.

Staying your course

Things done well:
  • Board commitment to “why”
  • Continual focus of “business as usual” and organisational performance
  • Did not allow unsuccessful attempts at mergers to “throw them”
  • Journey mapping of the customer journey
  • Journey mapping of the employee experience.
  • A good CEO that was committed to the merger and making it work well for everyone involved. 
  • Learned from trial and error  
  • Every lesson gave them additional wisdom to tackle the next problem
Learnings along the way
  • Due diligence is more than the numbers.
  • Look carefully at the delivery of services – if they are not complementary then you will not get the economies of scale.
  • With a mismatch, risk is significantly increased for both parties and consumers.
  •  There is usually a “lack” of transparency when negotiating a merger – but when you sit on each other’s boards and participate in the business you start to see the cracks. This is often not intentional, but the learnings were critical – not a good culture fit.
  • Unfortunately, cultural alignment is not discovered until a long way into the process, but it is having the “courage” to say – this isn’t right. Learn and start again.
  •  The “executive leaders’ team” is critical in a smooth transition.
  • Not everyone will be onboard – that is ok.
  • Compromises are required from both sides of an M&A
  • Be clear with staff about “merger or acquisition”.
  • Constitutional issues may require more planning especially with disengaged members.
  •  Everyone needs to “own” due diligence.
  • Allow a space for grief – this is a big change – people do need to say “goodbye”.
  • Create inspirational leaders for the new way of doing things – connect it to the “why”.
  • The impact on operational teams is huge.
  • New roles need to be developed to support mergers and help with transition.
  • Communications is critical at all stages.
  • An implementation plan is required to communicate stages.
  • Strategic Alignment – ensure you are all aligned in your “why” and your “how”.
  • Journey Mapping
    • JM allows you to understand your processes, systems, client interfaces and employee ways of working. This is a critical step to matching and aligning other services in “due diligence”.
  • Culture and People Audit – understand if your two cultures will work well together. 
  • Branding – use your branding tools and identity to identify ways to rebrand without losing loyalty, history and advocates.
Key takeaways
  • Mergers are hard
  • The real work begins after the merger with “people” – communities, consumers and employees.
  •  Have confidence in the success of the M&A before you make declarations or announcements
  • Stakeholder engagement is critical from the leadership team to employees to communities to customers. 
  • Transparency is critical from early stages

As a final note, mergers and acquisitions bring about a lot of pressure, emotions and additional work. Change Management is an identified psycho-social hazard and all leaders have an obligation to manage change well in their organisations. To identify and mitigate the risks associated with change.  The learnings from this session go a long way to providing strategies and also tools to identify, mitigate and manage transition well in organsations. 

“Measuring Psychological Safety of the boardroom, the organsations and teams critical to the M&A provides a great insight and and a predictor of future risk, claims and the quality of customer service. It should included in all due diligence activities”.  Carolyn Grant

Interested in Learning More?

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