Building the Integration Team
Bob Nealon of Nealon Advisory Group
this article we continue our series on the topic of Growth by
Acquisition, providing insights to guide you through your M&A planning
and integration efforts. In our
last article, we discussed how to set the stage for a successful
acquisition. In most cases, acquisitions are completed by senior
executives operating within a very restrictive communication network. This
is necessary to protect the confidentiality of the negotiations. Once the
deal is done, other managers will be asked to take ownership of the
integration program. As you proceed toward the closure of the acquisition,
it is time to clarify the goals of the integration program and select the
The range of integration alternatives
Most acquisitions involve some degree of integration ranging from "limited
financial and managerial" to "substantial operational." The selection of
the appropriate strategy should be based upon the specific acquisition
situation. The "limited financial and managerial" approach characterizes
the situation in which the newly acquired entity will operate
independently as a division or subsidiary. General managers of the
independent entity will be accountable to the executives of the parent and
most of the conversations will involve strategic direction, financial
performance and application of investment capital.
The "substantial operational" approach characterizes integrations in which
functional activities of the companies are combined to achieve revenue
growth and/or efficiency opportunities, often called "synergies." A growth
example would be the addition of acquired products to an established brand
family with a significant market acceptance. An efficiency example would
include the combining of multiple production activities at a single site
to increase capacity utilization.
For the purposes of this article we will assume that the appropriate
integration approach is to accomplish "substantial operational"
integration in several key department areas. This approach will involve
the combination of similar business activities into a new structure of
responsibilities and resources. Please refer to the graphic below which
depicts this transition. If the program owners have begun to think about
an integration team, then decisions regarding the scope and degree of
integration have probably already been made.
Communicate the post integration business strategy for everyone
Only after the goals are established and well understood can progress
begin. These goals will be translated into the strategies that the
integration team will execute. Clarity of these new roles and
responsibilities sets the stage for defining the teams and participants.
This may take more energy than management is prepared to give to the task,
but it is vitally important to the success of the integration effort.
Clear definition of roles
The program leaders must be clear about what the roles on the team will be
and who will play what role. Lack of clarity will lead to confusion and
frustration among the team members. Decide what groups and which managers
will own each major activity at the end of the integration. All else being
equal, and subject to the thoughts expressed below, these managers should
lead the respective functional teams. In most cases, existing departments
"A" and "B" will transition into a new department "C" with similar but
expanded responsibilities as compared to either department prior to the
In some rare cases, a new organizational unit will be required to execute
some of these new responsibilities. We recommend that the managers
responsible for this determination do the following:
Identify this as soon as possible,
Make it known to the rest of the organization; and
Fill the resulting leadership positions quickly.
Delays in doing this will delay the program progress because the required
decisions cannot be made by others.
For employees working throughout the company, we suggest that working on
an acquisition integration program is a valuable career development
experience. Not everyone is given the opportunity to participate in this
challenging work. Because the work is often different from someone's
regular responsibilities and assigned as an additional duty, clear
definition of roles and expected outcomes is crucial to success.
With rare exceptions, the management teams who are transferring
responsibilities to others can play a participatory role but not a
leadership role. This participatory role is extremely valuable to the
success of the effort and must be given appropriate respect. After all,
the acquirer paid dearly for the contributions of the acquirees'
Simple view of an acquisition integration program
based upon interpersonal skills and openness to change
Acquisition integrations are an extreme version of change management. In
the majority of change initiatives, the participants know each other and
understand the business context and need for change. In the case of
acquisition integrations, most likely someone else decided to combine
these entities and the team members have subsequently been assigned to
accomplish the tasks. Under these circumstances, choosing people with the
right interpersonal skills can be critical to the program's success. Start
by choosing people who want to do this work.
People with a curiosity for doing things differently and working with new
groups of people will do much better than people who are more comfortable
in an established work environment that remains relatively constant. As
depicted in the graphic, the participants will lead the way through a
transition that results in new ways of doing things and in many cases the
ability to do new things. The best way to approach issues may not always
be clear at first, and some amount of trial and learning will be required
before the path becomes obvious to all. Whenever possible, people who
thrive under these circumstances should be selected to lead and
participate in integration programs. Generally, the possession of these
attitudes is as important a factor for success as any participant's
technical skills or business knowledge.
Aligning by skills and functional expertise
At the outset, the new team members may not know each other at all.
Pairing people based upon similar experiences and skill sets will provide
a sphere of shared experiences to break the ice and generate cooperation.
Integration team leaders can amplify this through communication and
All positions on an integration team must be filled for the program to
Although this sounds obvious, an open position cannot contribute much to
an integration program. Responsibilities are sometimes assigned to an open
position as hiring of new employees is unable to keep up with the progress
of the integration program. Senior management must assign the
responsibility for specific tasks to someone, even on a temporary basis
and give them the authority and resources to accomplish them. Asking a
solid person to step into an integration role, even on an acting basis,
allows forward movement aligned with the progress of other groups.
And do not forget the program leaders
Within every organization there are employees who thrive in this change
oriented environment. We urge management to seek these people out and
provide the opportunity for their development. The right program leader
with a "can do" attitude and an appreciation for everyone else's
contributions can create a very positive team and increase the probability
that the goals will be accomplished.
Now that the teams have been defined and the leaders selected, you can
proceed to establish key assumptions and planning parameters. This will be
the topic of our next newsletter in this series.
If you would like to receive more information on this subject without
waiting for the full newsletter series, or if you need assistance with an
acquisition you are planning or are in the midst of integrating, please
contact us. We can help!
+ Growth by Acquisition
If you have received this newsletter from a friend
and would like to subscribe:
here to subscribe
View previous newsletters
About Customer Centricity, Inc.
We strengthen overall company performance through
better service delivery and management.
We boost efficiencies in front-line customer service and technical support
teams, order processing, fulfillment, field service, logistics and other
key operations functions.
In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your
customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner
See What Our Customers Say