Gunslinger Wisdom – 2

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. Colt 44 Doc Holliday
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….”

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The “Lesser Whole Theory” Bites United

Poor United Airlines has been receiving a lot of unfavorable press recently, mostly about unhappy premier customers. The Merger Verger has discussed the integration process with United at some length over the last few months and basically believes that they have done a good job at planning for and executing the merger.

So what’s going wrong? And are there lessons for the rest of us in this turbulence?

Much has been written about the “need for speed” in the integration process over the last few years. (Who hasn’t read the Band-Aid metaphor a zillion times?) But does that need apply to all aspects of the integration process or is it better used selectively? Clearly in the case of financial controls and employee (and management) reshuffling, speed counts.  But United’s problems seem to center around customer service issues, in particular the combined software systems and the training on those systems.  That suggests three possible explanations:

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