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Our company is being acquired, and as luck would have it, I listened to these podcasts the same week the rumors started. I wanted to share with the Manager Tools community how they've helped, and was wondering if anyone else has had an opportunity to put M&M's recommendations into action…and what they might have learned.

The briefing book is VERY powerful. Indeed, this is the “real gem.” A VP who will be very important to our group wanted an overview of what we were doing. When he saw the briefing book, his response was: “If this is the kind of work you do, you’re going to go far in this company.” More important, I was able to professionally convey my team's value. (Bonus: creating that briefing book a great exercise. I'll continue to keep it updated, and will always have such a book as long I have a professional life.)

Share what you know with your network, even if they’re not sharing back. There were a couple of mid-level people brought into the due diligence process early on, but (due to strict non-disclosures) they could not engage in rumor or analysis. When the deal was announced, though, these people suddenly knew a lot: the strategic impetus for the deal, what the acquirers looked at during due diligence, the names and titles of the key players, etc. Being able to say “You must have been amused when I speculated that…” makes a great conversation starter for finding out what they know.

Finally, and most significantly, I owe ineffable gratitude to Mark and Mike for these great podcasts.

thaGUma's picture

jhack
[quote]Share what you know with your network, even if they’re not sharing back.[/quote]
This is one of my tenets - it show strength and security - and it increases the chance errors will be identified.

Chris

Mark's picture

JHack-

Well done! We're glad that cast was so helpful...a times like those, help is often in short supply.

Mark

jhack's picture

More reflections on being acquired. Please note that my experience is that of a small company (250 employees) being acquired by a very large one (over 25,000)

BLUF: Being acquired is tricky even when it’s friendly.

In a small company, almost all projects have to be strategically aligned. We were acquired because our core technology was a complement to theirs. Our active projects, however, were not necessarily aligned with their strategy. You might suddenly find your projects cancelled. Keeping morale up while new product roadmaps are developed, new marketing programs are created, etc, can be challenging. Be prepared to spend more time with your directs helping them understand that things will get back on track. I found that assigning research projects (and presentations to the rest of the team) were both valuable uses of time and opportunities for development.

Generally, you’re going to be much further from the top. Much less looped into decisions. More likely to be treated as just another resource. It’s not personal, it’s business. So, do your work well, buckle down....

Buckling down, however, just got more difficult: other groups upon whom you depend for support (IT, marketing, legal, etc) are often the ones most at risk of redundancy, and they are very keen to be responsive to the new masters. Getting things done suddenly becomes a lot harder. If you don’t have good relationships outside your department, you might find yourself unable to move a project forward. This is not a good time to start missing deadlines.

Beware of promises you made to your people regarding upcoming raises, promotions, etc. Even if you have been working appropriately within the rules of your old company, the new owners may have different schedules for reviews and promotions, different processes and crtieria, etc. You may not be able to make the changes you would have otherwise.

And, most important, it is an amazing opportunity. There is a need for good managers in all companies, at all levels. Being part of a new, larger, enterprise is a whole new world of opportunity. The frontier has just opened up, again.

John

Mark's picture

John-

Excellent post. We love first hand experience, and this is spot on stuff.

Thank you for sharing.

Mark

fiveway4's picture

Just thought I would add my only comments on this. I fully endorse John's comments in relation to providing a briefing pack. We have just merged (us 40000 employees) with another business (10000 employees) but given the mgt team from the smaller business has taken the top jobs it feels slightly strange. We have previously grown by acqusition and have driven the integration process previoulsy - now the shoe is on the other foot!

I used the pack on my first 121 with my new boss and suffice to say he didn't get the opportunity (or need) to refer to his own agenda items - i got some feedback from one of the board members after the event and it was great to hear how impressed he was and that they did not have any one of my calibre in their business - so many thanks MT.

I know when was pulling this together over the previous months my team could not really appreciate why i was doing this - I had to review the content a few times to make sure the right message was getting across - do not underestimate how long this may take so start as early as you can!!

First impressions matter a great deal - I noticed some more of my more senior peers were in and out of their meeting in half the time I was - I wonder why that may have been the case???

MsSunshine's picture

What are the things do do quickly and longer term when products are canceled?

A year after a merger, it's obvious to me that some of my team's products are going to be canceled to focus on others. (I'm being asked for estimates on schedules "if" we were only doing product x or y or z and told not to ask anyone for help!) I think the decision and then announcement will come quickly. So, I want to be prepared to guide my team through this change. Some of them have worked on these projects for 10 or more years. I thought some of the comments from various podcasts helped in terms of working through change. But I'm guessing most mergers mean things get canceled and wondered if you had anything specific. I've just taken on this team a month ago which does not help.

My thoughts are:
1. Let them morn by not wallow - tricky there...
2. Get them focused on the product being kept and it's importance. No one is being cut. They will all agree we've been spread too thin.
3. Do everything in my power to bring everyone to one location for a week of working out how we go from 3 products to focusing on one, roles, learning from the people who know the one product left.
4. Most of the team are quiet "C" types - (software development). So, keep reaching out to them over the following weeks. Listen to them and help them work through the change. Hard for those remote to me!
5. Carefully set upper management expectations on progress for awhile. I've heard comments like doubling the staff on the remaining one should let me cut the release time from 8 months from now to 4 months from now.
6. Make sure the business side of this is explained to them so they understand that it was facts not pet project driving results (there is a history if conflict between the groups).

jhack's picture

Ms Sunshine,

It’s great that no one is going to be cut. That eliminates a huge barrier to team building.

Our organization is going through much the same thing (complex series of mergers, three products being reduced to one).

Definitely bring everyone together. Use the “Meeting Introductions” technique in the members-only podcast from Dec 2005. The knowledge transfer is going to be important, and it’s critical that a spirit of friendliness, openness, and collaboration be established. If folks are resentful and display sullen behaviors, that can be a problem. If the folks who know the product you’re moving forward with act like they’ve “won” and lord it over the others, that will be even worse.

Make sure you manage the agenda at that meeting carefully, and plan for dinners or movies together. The “managing virtual teams” podcast has some good ideas here.

You have an opportunity to help people find roles that are an even better fit for them. Having discussions during your one-on-ones about skills and development as they relate to the new products will help folks see their career moving forward.

Read the “Mythical Man Month” by Fred Brooks.

Set upper management expectations…Easier said than done! Let them know that getting people up to speed and organizing them efficiently will take a little time. Have a plan and a timeline before you begin that conversation.

In fact, having a plan to show all your “C” types will help them, too. The clear path forward gives them structure.

The “business side” is in a sense the larger goal or mission of your organization. If that mission is described by its impact on your customers, that’s ideal. It’s not about the product, it’s about the needs you fulfill. Most folks are motivated by that.

Be honest about unknowns. Don’t hide the fact that there will probably be one or two re-orgs in the next year or so (don’t harp on it, either).

And be Ms Sunshine – smiling, radiating confidence, describing a bright future. Even if they grumble, that behavior is infectious.

John

danielon's picture

Hello everyone, I work for De ruiter Seeds in Spain and as you probably had read it was bought by Monsanto, everyone is very nervous and they should because the work here is very relax,
anyways I heard the podcast about mergers and adquisitions and I made a resume of it and translated it to my bosses, now Iam doing practically everything that i recomended, especially the book about briefing,

I gained a lot of points in my carrer to be the boss jejej,

by the way is in spanish if anyone need it to a subsidiarie abroad just let me know I will be happy to help you,

jhack's picture

Well, it’s time for another post: Yet More on Mergers…

[b]BLUF: Here are more hard-learned lessons about managing through mergers and acquisitions. [/b]

Some background: not so long ago, we competed with (among others) small companies X, Y, and Z; medium company B; and enormous company S. We also overlapped (and sometimes competed) with small companies P and M. Then the following events transpired in short order: B acquired X. Z acquired Y and M. S acquired P. S acquired us. B acquired Z. Finally, S acquired B. I’m oversimplifying, but you get the idea: by the end of 2007, S had acquired us all.

And put us all into one entity, and told us to figure it out.

Of course, we had to “rationalize the product portfolio.” More than once. And reorganize. More than once. It’s still happening. And it will continue…

[b]So what have I learned? [/b]

First, you must have a sense of humor. Bing knows all: http://stanleybing.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2008/04/07/yahoo-thoughts-and-m...

Second, you must follow the advice in the M&A podcasts: http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/08/managing-during-mergers-and-acquist... That advice is so good that it alone makes M-T great.

Third, you must have your external network active, now and forever forward. While one on ones are the single most effective management tool, having a strong network is the single most effective CAREER management tool.

[b]A few “don’t”s: [/b]

Don’t engage in private behavior you wouldn’t want made public. This includes saying nasty things about others, plotting Machiavellian-style manipulations of the process, and complaining about the lowly role you’ve been given.

Don’t make enemies. Don’t go around telling everyone why they’re wrong and you’re right.

Don’t believe what you hear. You’ll hear the same rumor from multiple sources, and it will be plausible. “So-and-so is out of here, she’ll be gone in a week.” Act on that, and then you’ll learn she’s your new boss. Oops. Situations evolve quickly, and the formal communications move slowly. Even after an org chart is circulated, you should be very cautious about banking on it. Assume another re-org is coming.

[b]And now the positive stuff: [/b]

Have the courage of your convictions. Keep doing one-on-ones, keep your team focused on delivering good work. Keep your Briefing Book up to date. Maintain your professionalism at all times. You can still be a great manager to your team, and that will have a better long term impact than political maneuvering.

Having a strong external network doesn’t just help if you lose the game of musical chairs. It can help you win a seat. Mergers create fear: losing one’s job [i]is[/i] a bad thing. There’s a little voice in your head that says “don’t speak up, don’t suggest new ideas, don’t take a stand …” because you might be identified as someone who needs to be “made redundant.” A strong external network will give you the confidence to speak up. You can be seen as a thought leader, an innovator, a contributor, someone willing to take risks to make the company a better place.

Be humble. Everyone in a merger thinks they should be the SVP. If someone else is chosen, accept the decision with grace and professionalism. Hey, you never know…

Be a force for optimism at work. Your networking should be forward-looking and focused on information-sharing. You should be honest and upbeat with your team.

Add value everywhere. Help others. Provide information freely. Run some training. Become a hub. Volunteer. Karma matters.

[b]And if you do all this… [/b]

In the end, you may still need to seek career growth elsewhere. You’ll go into that process from a position of strength, and you will shine in the future.

John

stenya's picture

John and all, thanks for sharing your experiences. When our company's acquisition by a larger competitor was announced late last month, I knew I had to dig up this thread! Feels like I have a road map through tricky territory, and I'm grateful for the help. My program seems "safe" for now, but it's still early days and we need to be prepared for anything.

Best,

Chris