The quote below comes from PRITCHET, LP, a post-merger integration consulting firm based in Dallas. They use the metaphor of a gunslinger to describe those who would succeed at managing mergers. (The Merger Verger likes the metaphor and has used it previously here: Gunslinger Wisdom.)
During a merger, you need to become a bit of a gunslinger. There is real danger in waiting from problems to “draw first” … and you don’t have the luxury of taking time to aim perfectly.
We’re not advocating that you proceed with wild abandon,
but we do want to emphasize that the conservative, slow, methodical approach typically doesn’t cut it in a merger environment. That can be the most reckless strategy of all.
The Verger agrees with the good folks at PRITCHETT; they are correct that too much can go too badly wrong with a wait-and-see attitude. The idea of taking one’s time “to get it right” is yet another one of those areas where merging companies and running them are two completely different arts.
That said, it is equally important to note one element of their observation that is tucked neatly right in the middle: “We’re not advocating that you proceed with wild abandon….”
While most elements of an acquisition must be on the fast track, others must (or should or can) be on the slow track. Leadership, culture, headcount reduction, and all the strategic value drivers of the deal should be express trains. Other things (rebranding comes to mind) may well go express or local, based on the circumstances of the deal. Still others can take the “milk run,” slow and steady. And nothing about an integration should be on the “let’s get this over with and get back to work” track.
What are the slow “others?” It all depends. The answer is in your value drivers and your key risk factors and, hence, your strategic priorities. If it isn’t obvious what elements of your deal can amble along for a while, than you need to revisit your allocations of workload and your expectations for timing … and yur priorities. Merger integrations have too many moving parts to assume that they can all get done on the express track; something will fail.
By all means, err on the side of speed, of truncated analyses and empowered decision makers but don’t undermine the efforts of your gun slingers by giving them more targets than can possibly be hit.
Priorities. Focus. Then speed. Full Speed
About the art:
Top: Doc Holliday’s single action Army model Colt revolver
Bottom: Gunslingers Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman in The Quick and the Dead (TriStar Pictures, 1995)