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At best, mergers and acquisitions (M&A’s) have a 50/50 chance of reaching their intended results. Study after study puts the failure rate closer to 70-90%. Why is the failure rate so high? Repeatedly, research cites the human factor as the leading reason why mergers and acquisitions fail.
Part of the issue is how organizations view the human aspect of the closing date, which is usually treated as the end of the transaction, when it’s really just the start of change. Organizations, processes, and cultures will be integrated for weeks and months after the organizations come together, causing disruption and uncertainty. Leaders in the M&A environment are managing an organization that hasn’t existed before. Their people are no longer part of the organization they joined. Their sense of normal is disrupted. In response, they may choose to hold on to the past and what’s comfortable or feel a bit disoriented as they search for their place in the new company. In the midst of the disruption, new challenges and opportunities will arise not just in the integration of the new organization, but in its marketplace and among its customers. And, the merger or acquisition won’t be the last change they are facing. CEB reports that the average organization has undergone five enterprise-wide changes in the past three years and 73% expect change to accelerate (URL: https://www.cebglobal.com/insights/change-management.html). In this environment, change agility needs to be part of the new organization’s and leaders’ DNA. It can’t just exist in a few people in the organization; it needs to be the way business gets done.
Successful change-agile leaders at all levels in the organization respond to changes in the business environment by seizing opportunities, including throwing out old models and developing new ways of doing business. They try to make change thinking contagious, embedding it into everything they do from the most fundamental daily interactions to the most complex strategy.
Change-agile leaders demonstrate five integrated behaviors that, together, create a competitive advantage for the organization. They:
Share a compelling, clear purpose: Purpose is the guardrail for actions. Change agility requires an answer to the question “Why?”, so that people can fight the natural instinct to resist change. The answer needs to tap into what’s meaningful and important, providing an irresistible invitation to come along. As CEO Shoei Yamana of Konica Minolta has said, “My belief is that people don’t work for numbers…they need to share the same belief that they are creating value in some way.” If you can’t articulate a clear purpose behind the changes being made, it’s unlikely that your employees will be able to implement them.
- Competing in the FutureHow to make your company more nimble and responsive.
Look ahead and see opportunity: Most leaders view this as the role of senior executives. To infuse change agility into your culture, mid- and front-line leaders — who are closest to the markets, customers, and daily operations — need to be encouraged and incented to see opportunities in what they do every day. They need to look beyond this month or this year to identify trends and take action. History is littered with market leaders who didn’t see the opportunities ahead or take action on them. Kodak, Sears, and Motorolaare just a few. To build this behavior into the organization, leaders should:
- Make opportunity-seeking part of the regular conversation. Simply asking questions like “What are our customers talking about? What do you think they will want a year or two from now? What new trends do you think will impact us?” sends the message that looking ahead is important.
- Provide space to experiment. When a potential opportunity is identified, allow individuals or groups to experiment with ways to take advantage of it. Minimize the need for multiple layers of sign-off. It makes the culture too risk averse and squelches momentum.
- Advertise successes. Nothing breeds success like success. Tell the stories at company events and recognize middle and front-line leaders who are looking ahead and identifying opportunities. Show that the status quo is not enough anymore.
Seek out what’s not working:..