Merger, acquisition, and takeover: these are words that are always perceived with a healthy dose of fear. Markets, leaders, and employees all suddenly become careful and cautious. Even the air gets a little heavier. Why? Because people feel like they are kept in the dark.
This series about mergers and acquisitions outlines four steps to move your people into the new era with more excitement than fear.
Step 2: Shared Vision and Expectation Setting
The news is out there. You are now a new entity, or have a new partner. The merger, acquisition, or takeover is complete. The management has new faces and new leadership has taken the wheel. Everyone knows. But is everyone ready?
Let us assume all of this was done with thoughtful deliberation and the confluence was chosen carefully while considering the three Cs: corporate strategy, compatibility, and culture match. The integration and transition now starts its tumultuous journey to the new identity.
Before smart phones and Google Maps, taking a cab in a new city was such a daunting task. You had to pretend that you knew all the roads because you didn’t want to be taken advantage of. You wanted to trust the cabbie, but always had your doubts. A turn onto a dark, deserted road made you wonder if you should jump out the door, and if you didn’t, you worried the guy could be a murderer, or even a cannibal.
Without a map in hand, this is what your employees will feel like. So here is what you should do next.
All that communication must not only address the factors that led to this point, but what to expect going forward. The new identity must have a vision that is common and accepted by your workforce, not radically different from what your core was before the transition. It should translate to relatable goals for the organization, clarify its future strategy, and create hope and excitement for what is to come.
It should also define clearly what your short-and-long-term plans are. For example, if a company acquires another for its R&D capability but fails to clarify this, the more successful product teams might feel safe and the non-income generating R&D team might feel that they could be let go. And then you would lose the very essence you wanted to incorporate. Clarity from your end will save you tons of effort in retaining the best talent, positively impact your success, and dispel fears. Clarity is the light on that dark, deserted road that makes you less concerned with the cabbie’s food habits.
Sometimes this vision may also unsettle a part of your organization. Choose this carefully. This may be necessary and the disruption may only be a short-term distraction to help you with your long-term goal. There are changes that are not welcome even with the best of intentions, there will be groups that may not be positively impacted by this change. This is not pleasant, but it is important.
Let me be more direct: sometimes the new identity may need you to disengage from a set of activities that were a part of your being. You may want to focus on a particular capability more and take away focus from a specific area. Your new vision, strategy, and expectation setting must clearly lay out what will continue to be important and what might not. When you fail to do this, you might realize that the damage metastasizes everywhere indiscriminately.
Having a map in a cab makes the ride feel less stressful and safer, but doesn’t make it engaging. That’s what the next part is all about.