Mergers & Acquisitions Integration Handbook: A book review by Bob Morris

Mergers & Acquisitions Integration Handbook:  Helping Companies Realize the Full Value of Acquisitions
Scott C. Whitaker
John Wiley & Sons (2012)

How to combine, consolidate, and integrate resources effectively

Most mergers and acquisitions either fail or fall far short of original expectations. Reasons vary, of course, from one situation to another. However, more often than not, the primary cause is cultural resistance, the result of what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

What we have in this relatively short but remarkably thorough volume is just about everything a manager needs to know about the basics of various integration initiatives, be they post-merger, post-acquisition, or a partial variation on either. Scott Whitaker offers an abundance of information, insights, tools and techniques, and general counsel that can help achieve the given strategic objectives. However, as he correctly notes, “there is no one-size-fits-all approach to integration. The best approach is typically a combination of various integration strategies, tools, and timing that best fit the task at hand.”

After an Introduction, he begins each chapter “you will learn how to do the following” and then identifies several specific learning objectives for each of Chapters 2-15. For example:

Chapter 2: Lay the groundwork for your integration project
3: The most difficult areas of integration activity
5: How to stress-test the synergy plan
7: How to secure functional resources for your integration
8: Creating functional integration work streams
10: How to create a communication matrix for your integration
11: Assessment guidelines to topics to address when assessing culture
13: How to manage synergy programs within the IMO framework
15: How to collect feedback and assess your integration efforts

Then in the final chapter, Whitaker explains how his reader can create an “Integration Playbook.” Earlier, I quoted comments of his that deserve repeating now “there is no one-size-fits-all approach to integration. The best approach is typically a combination of various integration strategies, tools, and timing that best fit the task at hand.” Keep this in mind when proceeding through Chapter 16 as Whitaker discusses contents, elements, how the various elements work together, and then applying the playbook to the opportunities and (yes) perils at hand. Readers are provided (on Page 163) with directions to how and where they can obtain additional information related to this book.

Make no mistake about it: Even under so-called “ideal conditions,” combining, consolidating, and integrating resources effectively is an immensely complicated process. Hence the importance of the material that Scott Whitaker includes in his book…and hence the great value of the advice he shares when concluding his introduction, especially the second of his five key points:

Integrations are disruptive. Expect your integration to disrupt you operations and hamper business. Do nit underestimate the preparations and work required to manage successful integration – they can be ugly, time-consuming, and contentious. Prepare for the worst and expect the best.”

Here’s my own take: Unless your integration is disruptive, you’re not doing it right. In The Opposable Mind, Roger Martin describes the mindset needed for those involved in effective integration, a mindset in which there is “a predisposition and the capacity to hold two [or more] diametrically opposed ideas” in one’s head and then “without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other,” is able to “produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea.” Martin insists, and Scott Whitaker agrees, that integrative thinking that possesses a “discipline of consideration and synthesis is the hallmark of exceptional businesses [as well as of democratic governments] and those who lead them.”

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