The ‘Right Person, Right Job’ Process in Post-Acquisition Integration

A critical element of success in post-acquisition integration is identifying the right jobs to drive performance and then selecting the right people for those jobs. Selecting people for key positions in the new organization is among the most critical steps in the integration process. These choices are key to determining if the acquisition is accretive in value. It also provides the foundation for future success of the business and adopting a powerful organizational culture. At KingChapman, we think about how leaders can succeed in dealing with the Conundrum of People in M&A. In over thirty years of consulting in acquisitions, we find that getting the right person in the right job is critical to future success. It provides an excellent opportunity for leadership in bringing two or more organizations together. Placing the right people in the right jobs is also crucial communication to people in all organizations regarding their leader’s commitments and values.

In tandem with our clients, we have developed a “Right Person, Right Job” process for leaders to use in populating new organizations. How a selection process is conducted is a vivid illustration of the executives/managers commitments regarding the future of the organization. If the organizational design reflects no new thinking and people selected are the usual suspects, it is a clear demonstration that nothing will change. If, on the other hand, the organizational design reflects the new future created via the acquisition, then it demonstrates their commitment to a robust future for the organization that is exciting for people in the organization. Further, if finding the right people for the jobs is deliberate, with open conversations of personal values, then people will see that the selection process is consistent with the commitment to future success. As with all our work, the focus is on creating a powerful future, developing strategies for that future and delivering exceptional business results. This provides the context for this leadership process.

Invented Future

Getting the right people in the right job requires leadership commitment to creating a powerful, Invented Future for the business. This Invented Future provides the context for thinking about organizational design, organizational structure, and selecting the “right” people to go into those positions. If that commitment is not explicit, then that is the place to start. A robust, Invented Future needs to be created prior to taking any other actions. Without an Invented Future, the design of the new organization will invariably be based on the past. That is, the past of the organization which is making the acquisition. The flaw in relying on past-based designs is that future success of the combined organizations depends on creating a new future which is more powerful than was possible prior to the acquisition. There is a strong tendency to assume that an Invented Future is not needed since the organization making the acquisition had sufficiently strong organizational design, people and resources to execute the growth strategies. This mindset assumes the existing future is sufficient is a mistake which will hamper success in integrating the acquisition and creating growth.

Organizational Design

Thinking from this invented future provides a platform for developing an organizational design consistent with that future, rather than the past. Organizational design begins with the identification of the design elements and principles which are important given the Invented Future. Teasing out these elements is best done in a conversation with others about the Invented Future and strategies for achieving that Invented Future. In these conversations, keep asking what are the elements or principles of design we need for our organization?

As an example, continued innovation is often a key element in an organization’s strategy. If approached from a design standpoint, the useful question is “How can we build amazing innovation into our organization?” By delving into that question, endless opportunities will emerge. In contrast, if innovation is considered from perspective of organizational structure, the predictable response is we need an executive in charge of innovation and an innovation department. While this structural approach may seem logical, the probability of success is low.

A common misconception is that organizational design and organizational structure are the same. Both are important, yet are not the same. Organizational structure is the formal structure of accountability and usually is represented by a formal organization chart. This arrangement of boxes and lines is often where managers begin in thinking about an organization. While organizational structure is important, it is usually the last step to be taken rather than the first place to start.

Assess the Position

Begin with a clear definition of the position.

  • What is the role?
  • What are the key outcomes to be produced by this position?
  • Are there other key deliverables that should be produced by this position?

If this is a non-managerial or technical position, describe the type and importance of the technical skills required. Does this person need to be a “best-in-class” performer, or more of a journeyman?

If this is a management position, describe the expectations for the person in this position to have further advancement, i.e., is this the top or terminal position for a person in this role? If not, discuss the expectations for where the person in this role should go next, and the skills that will be required for that role. Time frame for promotion should also be discussed.

Assessing the Candidates

The people who are in consideration for the position should be discussed based on the specific requirements for the position. The background commitment is to support the managers in evaluating candidates for positions in an objective manner. The essence is that each person was given a fair hearing and discussion of his or her suitability for their fit in the revised organization. The focus is to discuss the person’s track record of producing business results and fit with the company values. Watch for the conversation drifting off to talk about what a good person they are, how important they have been in the past to the company, what role they play in the community, etc. The focus is on getting the best person for the job based on results and values.

Once the decision is made, then there can be a discussion on the extenuating circumstances, e.g., the best candidate wants to retire in the next year. Be slow to reverse selecting the best person. If none of the candidates appear to be of the caliber needed, leave the position vacant and conduct a search to find such a person.


A critical element of success in post-acquisition integration is identifying the right jobs to drive performance and then selecting the right people for those jobs. Selecting people for key positions in the new organization is among the most critical steps in the integration process. The conversations used to design, structure and populate the new organization is a vivid demonstration of leadership’s commitment to success of the post-acquisition integration as well as business success of the organization.


Half of M&A transactions fail to create value. Ever wonder why? Download our whitepaper ‘The Conundrum of People in M&A’, and understand the critical elements that impact mergers and acquisitions success or failure.

In it, you will learn:

  • Eight common flaws in decision-making often made by executives in M&A transactions
  • Why the integration process is so critical
  • Tactics in organizing, planning, and communicating that lead to successful integrations
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5 Ways to Destroy Value in Acquisitions

The number and size of corporate mergers and acquisitions continues to boom. The business press carries the stories of how these potential transactions could reshape markets and add value to the acquiring firm. Regardless of the enthusiasm and hype, the facts are that many of these acquisitions will not meet stated expectations, and in fact will destroy value. Further, some of these deals can be disastrous for the business. The risk is that massive shareholder destruction will occur as businesses falter; customers become disgusted and employees are dislocated. It is interesting to note that often when transactions are announced, shareholder price and value for the seller increases, while the opposite happens for the acquirers. Investors are aware of the risks of value destruction for the acquiring firm.

Creating value is not mysterious and doesn’t require the proverbial “rocket scientist” to figure out. The actions needed to create value rather than destroying value are straightforward. Yet, for a variety of reasons management teams execute these actions poorly or ignore them all together. Why? First the obvious, virtually all of the reasons for the value destruction involve people. In the passion and pressure of getting a deal done, managers forget about their people. The arrogant assumption is that people will be excited about the transaction and will “fall in line”. Often those assumptions are wrong. We call this the Conundrum of People in M&A.

This conundrum of people is where many acquisitions go off the rails. This includes dynamics during the negotiations as well as execution post-acquisition. Let’s look further at the causes:

1. Making Faulty Strategic Assumptions

A primary cause of value destruction is having an unclear strategy and picking the wrong target. Faulty strategic assumptions involve not being crystal clear about the business strategy for which making acquisitions is based. It is important to remember that making acquisitions is NOT the strategy, but rather one of the methods of executing a strategy. Unfortunately, too often executives who cannot figure out how to grow their business resort to making an acquisition. The classic line used to justify the transaction is “1+1=3”. While this phase sounds good, often the reality ends up being “1+1=1”, since an acquisition does not constitute or guarantee a growth strategy. Rather than growing the business, a failed acquisition only makes things worse.

Acquisitions made with faulty strategic assumptions lead to a flawed expectation of increased capability to meet customer needs, expanded geographical presence and capturing competitive advantage. Value is destroyed when the offerings of the integrated business do not lead to increased margins and sales with customers, expanded geographies, and competitive presence. The strategic error comes from faulty thinking about future events. This leads to failing to cover the cost of the acquisition and value destruction.

2. Ignoring Organizational and People Issues

A second cause of value destruction occurs in due diligence as the acquiring firm misreads the “essence” of the organization which is being targeted for acquisition. Negotiating a transaction can be like a romance, where passion obscures the stark realities of “getting married”. During this courtship both parties talking about “what could be”. Like in a romance, once the two parties are together there are often unpleasant surprises. Examples of these important organizational and people differences are:

  • Core values
  • Business models
  • Leadership styles
  • Organizational capabilities
  • Organizational cultures
  • Getting caught up in the passion of making a deal

3. Allowing Impaired Judgement

A third cause of value destruction comes from impaired judgement due to the “passion of the deal.” It is said that power is among the most potent drugs. Being part of a deal team and negotiating a transaction has seductive power which can quickly overcome “good judgement”. The passion and power are so strong that it is easy to overlook potential risks about the prospective acquisition and miss market and product changes. The dynamics and thrill of getting the deal done move to the foreground and puts good judgement and the original intent in the background.

4. Paying Too Much

Perhaps the most impactful consequence of a management team getting caught up in the passion of making a deal is paying too much for the acquisition. If the price paid for the acquired business was too high, there is no way the post-acquisition integration can overcome that mistake. It is simply a hole that is too deep to dig out of. Further, when the price paid is too high, the involved executives attempt to cover up the mistake with other “strategic moves”, which ultimately make the situation even worse. It is often said that the one mistake which cannot be overcome is paying too much. Investment bankers often earn their fees by getting the buyer to pay considerably more than they intended, and in many cases, was justifiable. Investment bankers often pressure managers into paying too much, which of course happens in the passion of the “buying fever.”

5. Allowing Poor Post-Acquisition Integration

Among the most common sources of value destruction is flawed post-acquisition integration. There is often an assumption that getting the deal closed is the hard part. That is a fatal mistake.


Creating value in acquisitions requires leadership which inspires people. This involves:

  • Creating context for challenging and listening to challenge regarding price, terms and conditions for a transaction. Leadership by those proposing the transaction as well as those involved in the deliberations is critical to mediating the temptation to overpay for a transaction in order to “win the deal”.
  • Thinking strategically about future value creation of transactions, rather than being swayed by rosy forecasts.
  • Leadership and intense commitment to successful integration!

At KingChapman we assist leaders in being vigilant regarding the people and organizational issues which ultimately determine value creation of transactions, but do not readily show up in financial models. We stand ready to explore these people and organizational issues with you.


Half of M&A transactions fail to create value. Ever wonder why? Download our whitepaper ‘The Conundrum of People in M&A’, and understand the critical elements that impact mergers and acquisitions success or failure.

In it, you will learn:

  • Eight common flaws in decision-making often made by executives in M&A transactions
  • Why the integration process is so critical
  • Tactics in organizing, planning, and communicating that lead to successful integrations
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Transformation Demands Developing Leadership Accountability

Accountability, leadership and transformation are inexorably linked. Accountability is an acute and overt manifestation of leadership. Leadership involves accepting and acting on the accountabilities of the position. Transformation will not occur without leadership. One of the first aspects of a business that needs to be transformed is accountability. Among the strongest evidence that a business is transforming is that the executives, managers and employees have a new relationship to accountability, and this new relationship to accountability is manifested in the performance of the business, relationships with stakeholders, and service provided to customers.

What is Accountability

The word ‘accountable’ stems from late Latin accomptare (to account), a prefixed form of computare (to calculate), which in turn derived from putare (to reckon). The concept of account-giving has ancient roots in record keeping activities related to governance and money-lending systems that first developed in Ancient IsraelBabylonEgyptGreece and later, Rome. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines the word accountable as:

1. Liable to be called to account, or to answer for the responsibilities and conduct: answerable and responsible. Chiefly of persons.

2. To be counted on or reckoned on.

3. Able to be reckoned or computed.

4. To be reckoned or charged, chargeable, attributable to.

5. Able to be accounted for or explained, explicable.

The term ‘accountability’ means “The quality of being accountable; liability to give an account of, and answer for, discharge of duties or conduct; responsible, amenableness.” I want to highlight the quality of being accountable since it provides a valuable insight into how leadership accountability is developed. Development begins with commitments which shape the person’s being. That is, if one wants to develop leadership accountability one begins with a strong commitment to being accountable. This commitment in turn shapes the context for the leader so that opportunities to develop occur clearly and with opportunities for action. Developing leadership accountability happens when the person acts on commitments to be accountable.

In business we say that leader accountability is acknowledgment and acceptance of responsibilities and results of the position. To expand this, we further say that accountability is:

1. Willing acceptance of the responsibilities inherent in the leadership position with a commitment to serve the well-being of the organization;

2. Expectation that the leader will be publicly linked to actions, behavior, communication, outcomes, performance, and value achieved;

3. Expectation that the leader may be called on to explain beliefs, decisions, commitments, and strategies to constituents.

Leadership accountability is the acceptance and fulfillment by managers of their critical role in the overall success of the organization. This term encompasses the achievement of personal and departmental results as well as contribution to reaching the company’s broader goals and vision. Accountability involves setting expectations, clearly communicating these expectations and then holding yourself and everyone within your sphere of influence responsible for consistently meeting the established expectations. Accountability is a process, with a beginning and an end. Accountability is not about blame, making excuses and scapegoating. It is not about telling people what you expect them to do, then quickly moving on to the next thing.

The Importance of Self-Examination

Self-examination is excellent means of developing leadership accountability. The person is committed to being accountable and based on that commitment sees to opportunities for action. Self-examination allows the person to assess effectiveness of her/his actions. A key question is “were my actions consistent with my commitment to be accountable as a leader?” Self examination will often reveal areas for improvement. This is particularly important with the circumstances in which the action occurred were complicated. Developing accountability as a leader is a long process of trial and error.

Accountability is personal, so self-examination is crucial. Self-examination occurs through looking in the mirror and asking questions such as:

  • When have your words about accountability been stronger than your actions?
  • Where have you allowed things to exist that you now know was a mistake?
  • Have you allowed people around you to misbehave, use company resources inappropriately, foster ineffectiveness, and ultimately destroy value? If so, who and why?
  • Have you allowed people around you to behave in a way that invalidates what you say you believe and stand for?
  • Have you allowed others not to be accountable because you wanted to avoid a conflict, or you were benefiting in some way from the continued existence of this situation?

These are tough questions. Yet candid inquiry into one’s own accountability is essential. My advice to leaders is that accountability begins with you and will develop based on your willingness to accept your own mistakes. This acceptance allows the leader to be bigger than the circumstances and to talk about openly the consequence of prior actions. Accountability begins in the leader’s chair. If the leader is candid and honest about themself, then there is an opening for establishing empowering accountability in the organization.

Unfortunately there are many in executive and senior management positions who have not developed their leadership accountability. This lack of developing leadership accountability is best demonstrated when employees experience “holding others to account” as a version of “do what I say, not what I do”.

This is perceived by employees as inherently hypocritical since the one who is “holding” does not actually act in an accountable manner, nor hold themself to account.

Accountability works when employees experience it as empowering and as an expression of joint commitment to success. Accountability is not empowering when it is experienced as punitive. As example, it is common to hear a negative tone when managers use the term “holds others to account”. This punitive tone replaces the power which can be created in a candid conversation for accountability.


If you want to learn more about what characteristics and roles leadership plays in the success of any organization, download our whitepaper: ‘Successful Strategic Execution Begins With Leaders’.

In it, you will learn:

  • The two hallmarks of an effective leader
  • The most crucial value for leaders to possess
  • The greatest contribution a leader provides
  • The most valuable ‘tool’ for a leader to wield
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Leadership Lessons Learned from Hurricane Harvey

“I am here to help you. What do you need?”, offered Becca.

True leadership is shown in the spontaneous actions of people to their circumstances. When people are inspired to make a difference, they become leaders and inspire others to take extraordinary actions. In this case, it was a generous woman reaching out to support families who could never repay the gifts that they were given. Further, the leaders in this case were inspirational and were never acknowledged for their contribution. Lastly, the evidence of inspired leadership was the amazing response of other people and organizations joining in to help. There were some important leadership lessons learned from the tragedy wrought by Hurrican Harvey.

This past Saturday evening, I had the chance to join some friends over dinner. All of the dinner guests were very fortunate in that none of us suffered any losses from Hurricane Harvey, which dumped up to 50” of rain on the Houston area in less than a week, producing unbelievable flooding all around our great city. But one person in our party – Becca – shared an amazing story about a neighborhood not far from her home that didn’t escape the flooding.

I want to repeat her story, because I found it so inspiring as I realized that her experience demonstrates the kind of true leadership that my partners and I are always attempting to foster with our clients.

Becca’s Story

A couple of days after Hurricane Harvey moved out of our area, Becca went to one of her favorite local restaurants and noticed that one of the waiters who had been around for 10 years was not in the building. She asked if he was ok, and learned that his neighborhood had experienced massive flooding. Since this neighborhood was not far away, she drove there and was shocked at what she witnessed. Homes had taken up to five feet of water, mud was everywhere including the streets and inside the homes, and homeowners were starting to empty their homes because everything inside had been ruined.

She found her “favorite waiter” at his home, with his wife and 2 little children, and Becca walked right up to him, looked him in the eye, and said, “I am here to help. What do you need?”

When she got his list, she went home and got on Facebook with one of her neighborhood friends and asked them to help. Later that day, she returned with other friends with 600 sandwiches for the families in the neighborhood, cases of bottled water, cleaning supplies, rakes, shovels, tools – basically everything on the list.

Becca and her team returned the next day…

And the next day…

And has been helping this neighborhood of people for over two weeks.

And her list of volunteers continues to grow, as do the supplies needed by these families to rebuild their lives.

I found her story incredibly moving, and inspiring. She looked at the people and their situation, and chose to be a leader by making a difference in the best way she could comprehend. What has been achieved as a result of her leadership has made a difference to that whole neighborhood, and far exceeded what a rational person would have predicted could have been accomplished.

Breakthrough Projects and Leadership

Last month, my partner Bob Chapman wrote an article, “Creating Organizational Transformation With Breakthrough Projects”.

In this article, he shared a number of predictable actions, based on our years of experience, that come from the teams that are leading breakthrough projects:

  • Delivering exceptional business results more quickly than expected
  • Developing transformation leaders in different levels of the business
  • Engaging employees in a way they have never been engaged before

This article was obviously written with a business in mind. Typically, an executive is looking to deliver some step-change in performance due to a variety of factors. We work with client companies to properly charter these breakthrough projects, and then work with both the Executive Sponsors of the projects as well as the Project Leaders and Project Teams, to create and execute breakthrough projects delivering unimaginable performance and results.

Ways Becca Personafied Transformational Leadership

What is it that is so inspiring about Becca and what she has been able to do? There are many comparisons between Becca and the transformational leaders that we are working to develop within all of our clients.

#1: Engagement

Becca saw a group of people who were in need of help. These people weren’t begging or crying about their fate – they were too busy getting themselves organized and cleaning up to prepare for rebuilding. She saw this group of people and asked what she could do. She then turned to people she knew and trusted and got them engaged to help her help them.

Getting people engaged is a key capability of a transformational leader. Notice that Becca could not coerce or force or command her friends to jump in with both feet. All she had was a request for help – and of course, knowing Becca, she brought her own personal brand of enthusiasm to the request. And her friends came out in full force, sharing with their own circles of friends to provide additional help and support.

This is what we have seen happen in breakthrough projects – people get engaged and start doing things that no one would have ever predicted.

#2: Creativity

After two days going to this neighborhood and working with the people there, she realized that everyone in the neighborhood needed to shower. She talked to one of her friends, asking how in the world could that be done? There was no electricity, no shower facilities (all homes had been flooded) – what to do. Her friend came up with an ingenious plan, and later that afternoon there was a home-made set of six semi-private showers. When they were installed and turned on, Becca said you could hear the whole neighborhood clap and cheer.

When breakthrough project teams get really engaged and act to deliver outcomes to which they are committed, they invariably face obstacles or roadblocks, i.e. special needs that they had not planned for. The way we coach the teams, and the way we help create the teams’ charters, helps facilitate the creativity that is often needed to be effective. We have seen time and again that when a breakthrough project team decides to get something done, their creativity to find a resolution is unstoppable. And often the resolutions they create become a transformational pillar in the construction of the whole breakthrough initiative.

For the breakthrough project leaders and teams, learning to tap into this creativity through commitment, dialogue, and engagement, becomes a way of working rather than a one off. This is one reason the work of breakthrough teams becomes a sustainable set of capabilities available to the organization for years more.

#3: Being a Leader vs Having the Title of a Leader

Becca clearly did not have a title “Neighborhood Leader”, or “Homeowners’ Association President”. She didn’t even live in the neighborhood! But she took a stand for those people – and she took a stand for herself – that she was going to make a difference. Her stand didn’t sound like “I am a leader” – she just BECAME the leader.

And in her leadership, she lost total control the first day. The engagement she got from people was so intense, that others came out of the woodwork with offers of all kinds of help, work, supplies, etc. She had to ask one volunteer to take the donated clothing somewhere other than the neighborhood, because at that time, there was nothing in the neighborhood that was dry and clean. She had no storage! So the volunteer found a local business that became the storage place for the clothes, and later, for much more in supplies.

Her leadership didn’t need control – she needed inspiration, engagement, creativity – and lots of people taking lots of action!

Breakthrough project leaders learn very similar lessons. The objective of the breakthrough project is to generate far more action and results than would be otherwise predictable. And like Becca, breakthrough project team leaders often find that the activity gets more robust and voluminous than what one person can control. This is a good sign because it means that the whole possibility of the project is becoming immersed within the organization. As the old saying goes, “Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan”. People love to play on a winning team, and just as Becca was leading a winning neighborhood effort, breakthrough project team leaders are being trained to lead winning projects.

Thank you, Becca. You are an inspirational leader!

This is a final note about something that I still cannot get over as it makes me even more inspired by Becca and what she has accomplished:

Becca was laid off from her job the week before Harvey.

So even though she was going through her own issues and challenges, she still stepped up and became a truly inspiring leader who has made, and is making, a profound difference to an entire neighborhood.

We have seen so often that people in organizations want to make a difference – they want to do something that matters. It is this spirit that we at KingChapman are in business to foster and bring out in all of our clients. We have seen people just like Becca take business initiatives on as leaders no matter where they happen to be in an organization, and with inspiration, commitment, and creativity fully engage themselves to deliver outcomes that are transformational.



If you want to learn more about what characteristics and roles leadership plays in the success of any organization, download our whitepaper: ‘Successful Strategic Execution Begins With Leaders’.

In it, you will learn:

  • The two hallmarks of an effective leader
  • The most crucial value for leaders to possess
  • The greatest contribution a leader provides
  • The most valuable ‘tool’ for a leader to wield
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Six Emerging Priorities For Leading Through Complexity

Can you identify the drivers of complexity in your organization? Are you able to diagnose the level of uncertainty in your environment? Can you assess a given situation’s complexity and use a framework for choosing an appropriate course of action?

The ever-increasing complexity facing organizations demands that leaders improve performance outcomes for their organizations. This is especially true for those working in unforgiving social, political and regulatory environments, which are rich with complexity and where the scale of consequences can be catastrophic. In addition, cognitive biases interfere with accurate perception of a circumstance and prevent the person from attending to additional incoming data. Further, it is very hard for the person whose perceptions and judgements are compromised to see it until long after the fact.

Leading through complexity requires leaders to possess impeccable awareness of their behavior and of how others interpret it. As leaders, we need to create actions that allow our people to quickly diagnose their level of complexity and respond accordingly. The following six principles are emerging as priorities for leading in a complex world.

Mindset for Complexity

Leadership mindset is critical for organizations dealing with complexity. This mindset embraces the discovery of new phenomena for which there is not an immediate diagnosis or solution. Instead there is inquiry, observation, and openness to discovery. This includes a willingness not to rush to reach a conclusion, which often frustrates others who have only a classic management mindset.

Increased Tension

The mindset in many organizations is to avoid complexity by insisting on adopting a known solution, even when the solution does not apply. The rush to impose a solution reduces the tension of the unknown, but does not serve the organizations best interests. That is, the choice of a quick solution rather than understanding the drivers of complexity is a temporary “feel good” solution since it reduces the personal tension of “not knowing”. Reducing tension costs the organization the opportunity to see the drivers of complexity which is found in the tensions and has the critical information for breakthroughs in innovation and reduction of risks.

Learning Agility

Leaders guide organizations and teams in development of new capabilities for embracing and learning from complexity. These new capabilities begin with identifying the drivers of complexity, rather than immediately assuming a known solution. Much of what happens in business does not actually fit inside “order and knowing”. Instead, it occurs in the realms of uncertainty and the un-ordered, which requires leaders who are willing to embrace the existence of complexity. If a business person assumes order, they will be surprised by the fact that “things that never happened before happen all the time”, a concept discussed by Karl Weick concerning High Reliability Organizing, or HRO.

Probing for Weak Signals

Leaders diagnose the level of complexity and uncertainty which their organization is facing. There are response patterns which can be observed, provide valuable insights, and ultimately diagnosed. The diagnosing involves probing for weak signals which require leadership experiments to quickly amplify and exploit these signals. A probe provides valuable data and patterns on what is being learned. The disagreement among those investigating the patterns is important. The leader and team collaborate in keeping an open mind and not falling into the temptation to prematurely rush to an inaccurate conclusion. The patterns serve as evidence necessary to diagnosing the uncertainty and effectively see opportunities in the complexity. Dave Snowden (from which much of this thinking is derived) aptly describes the response pattern as probe the environment, sense what works and doesn’t, and respond intelligently. This process of conducting probes gives an intentional look at the signals which led to success. These probes also allow for dampening the signals which are not working.

Capability for Creating Emergent Practices

Emergent practices enable leaders in an organization to observe the drivers of complexity, to conduct probes and projects to better understand the realms of complexity, and then to invent a course of action. Emergent Practice allows for experimentation and organizational learning. It is also an excellent place for Breakthrough Projects. With an Emergent Practice, solution emerges that could not be fully known in advance.

Leading Through Cognitive Bias

Facility in equipping others in the organization to spot cognitive bias is an essential skill of leadership. Cognitive biases are the consequences of mental shortcuts which every person uses routinely throughout the day. These cognitive shortcuts allow us all to function and are helpful in dealing with mundane routines. Occasionally these mental and behavioral shortcuts misread the situation and begin a course of action based on the faulty perception. The clear majority of these misreads are harmless and can even be humorous. However, on occasion these misreads can be very serious for managers assessing strategic options and anyone operating in some potentially complex situations.

KingChapman equips leaders to guide their organizations in identifying the drivers of complexity. In dealing with complexity, leaders begin with probing to observe the response patterns. Data discovered from these probes is the first step in agile learning and developing an intelligent response. The agile learning is required to avoid slipping into preexisting explanations which do not apply. Then information and learning can emerge.


Do you want to learn more about the type of leadership it takes to guide your organization through complex and changing time? Download our whitepaper: ‘Transformation Change Leaders: The Biggest Missing Ingredient in Business Today’

In it learn:

  • What is driving the “gap” that exists in Boards of Directors and leadership teams
  • The 6 main components of transformation change leadership
  • What is causing the shortage of supply
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Does Your Business Strategy Execution Resemble A Sea Monster?

British Columbia is one of the most beautiful regions in North America. Most think of Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler Mountain as the high points of British Columbia. Truly each of these locations is spectacular. Kelowna is one area to add to this list of amazing places in BC. This town with a native Indian name sits in the heart of the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan Valley excels as a region for agricultural and wine. It also sits at the base of a spectacular Okanagan Lake. This deep, clear lake is breathtakingly beautiful. It also is home to the mythical sea monster, Ogopogo.

Ogopogo is described as a 40-50-foot sea monster. It has reportedly been seen by First Nations people since the nineteenth century. Another sighting reportedly happens in the 1920’s and the 1970’s. The Okanagan Lake is home to forests, logging camps and saw mills. Given the industry, many have assumed that these sightings are actually large logs floating in the lake. Who knows? Maybe there is a sea monster actually living in the lake. Regardless of the “facts”, telling the story of Ogopogo continues to this day. The retelling of the story seems to make it “more real”. One way people from this area interact with strangers is to ask if they have seen Ogopogo? It’s a good conversation starter, and ultimately a source of good humor.

Ogopogo & Business Strategy Execution

The phenomenon of Ogopogo often applies to how employees think about strategies in their organizations. That is, many people speak about their organization’s strategies as if it is a myth. Try asking people in an organization if they know their organization’s strategies. They will say that they have heard stories that it might exist, but have not actually experienced anything to prove it is real.

While it is not a problem that most citizens cannot describe Ogopogo, it is a real problem when people in an organization cannot describe their business strategy. This raises the obvious question: “Why is it that these strategies cannot be communicated, remembered and understood? Let’s look at some common reasons:

  • There is not an explicit strategy. “We all know what to do” is a common statement from executives in these organizations. The absence of strategic thinking occurs as a major problem when change and growth is required.
  • Plans for the primary product is seen as the business strategy. The limited view of strategy closely ties the future of the business to the future of the primary product. As the product becomes old and obsolete, the business will find itself in real trouble.
  • Confuse aspirational organizational culture and practices as being a business strategy.
  • Strategy is described in a large complicated document with lots of financial and market share data.

A client once described this process of producing a large document which is placed in a lovely binder for presentation to the Board. Following Board approval, the binder is placed on a credenza. At that point, it becomes “credenza-ware”, where it will remain until the next year.

Making Strategy That Will Be Executed

What then makes a strategy executable? In a Harvard Business Review video, Don Sull describes the elements required for a strategy to be implemented and executed. It must be:

  • Memorable
  • Understandable
  • Actionable
  • Simple (focused and limited # of actions based on must-win battles)

The criteria for creating such a strategy is that it must answer three questions:

  1. How do we create and sustain value?
  2. What are the critical issues or obstacles we must overcome to create value?
  3. What are the must-win battles to overcome those obstacles and create value?

This approach produces remarkable clarity and momentum when used by leadership and a group of people who are committed to growth in revenue and value. The questions evoke robust conversations and ultimately passion drive action. One key indication of good strategic thinking is that it promotes clarity of what’s needed for successful strategic execution, and the momentum to be in action.

Two additional questions guide development of execution:

  1. Two years from now, what evidence will we see that we are winning or have won this “must-win battle”?
  2. Thinking from that future success, what are the actions we must take?

As the group responds to the first question, it is able to talk about the future. This is not just any future, but one in which the must-win battles are being won and success is achieved in executing the strategies. The second question identifies key elements to include in the execution planning.

 Criteria of Good Strategy

The criteria for good strategy includes the following:

  • It is easy to communicate and act on
  • People can see it in action
  • It is tied to results

If executives and managers can clearly communicate the strategy, it is a positive sign. Likewise, if employees can describe the strategy, that is an even better sign. However, if communicating the strategy is a struggle, the execution of that strategy will likely be a struggle as well.

One reason why so many employees think there is not a strategy is they see little evidence of it being acted on. If employees can see actions and consequences of the strategies being executed, the building of momentum in the organization to support the strategy will grow exponentially. Finally, if there are clear results and positive consequences coming from execution of the strategy, the acceptance of the changes associated with the strategy will accelerate.

How Bad Strategy is Like Ogopogo

Ironically, the differences between identifying a good strategy and spotting Ogopogo are illustrative.

  • Ease of communication – a good strategy is easy to describe and understand. Bad strategy, like Ogopogo, is very hard to describe and even its name is hard to understand.
  • People can see it in action – a good strategy being implemented can be observed and understood. Bad strategy, like Ogopogo, is not easily seen or understood.
  • It is tied to results – a good strategy produces observable results. Bad strategy, like Ogopogo, produce no consequences. Although, perhaps Ogopogo can be given credit for producing some fun, entertaining telling of stories about a sea monster living in Okanagan Lake. Similarly, your employees may think of their company’s business strategy as a great myth or legend.

If strategies are not easily communicated, producing observable action and tied to results, key stakeholders are likely to equate them with a myth about a large sea creature. Make sure your business strategy has nothing in common with Ogopogo.


Want to take a deeper dive on Strategic Execution? Download our whitepaper: ‘Successful Strategic Execution Begins With Leaders’.

In it, you will learn:

  • The two hallmarks of an effective leader
  • The most crucial value for leaders to possess
  • The greatest contribution a leader provides
  • The most valuable ‘tool’ for a leader to wield
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3 Questions About Leadership Commitment to Change

A common misconception in business is that management and leadership are the same. They are not. The impact and roles of leadership and management are quite different. Leadership is essential for companies who need to grow and create value beyond the levels given by the market. That is, to make things happen which were not already going to happen. If a business has all the growth and value creation it needs, then leadership commitment is not important. Of course, that describes few if any businesses today.

If you want to expand the importance of leadership in your organization, it is useful to determine what the term leadership means to people in your organization. Many do not have a good understanding of leadership and management, as well as why there is a distinction between the two. Many consider the two terms to be interchangeable, that is to be describing the same capabilities. Some will differentiate leaders from managers based on position in the organization. Senior managers are considered to be leaders since they have greater responsibilities.

Leadership is needed in order to produce the “elements of inspiration, vision and human passion which drive corporate success”. In case you think this description is from a recent work, that phase was written in 1977 in a groundbreaking article in the Harvard Business Review. Leaders create the environment which promotes others to excel.

The confusion about differences in leadership and management is harmful to organizations. It serves to diminish the importance of leaders, often in the organizations which most need powerful leaders. Further it reduces the emphasis placed on development of leadership, which only makes the matter worse.

Assessing the Conversations About Leadership

As a C-level executive or General Manager who is contemplating execution of growth strategies and organizational transformation, you are well advised to investigate how the conversation about leaders and leadership occurs in your organization. If you discover there is limited appreciation of contributions made by leaders, you will want to address this issue head on. As a means of investigating the conversations about leaders, I recommend you sit down with a broad cross section of your organization and ask them the following questions.

1.) Are management and leadership the same?

Chances are high that you will get one of two responses to this question:

  • Yes, management and leadership are the same. “It is two words we use to describe upper levels of management” is a common response.
  • “No, they are not the same”. If you ask for further explanation of the differences, the answers you hear will be muddled and unconvincing. It is likely that somewhere along the way this person has heard a discussion about the differences in management and leadership, but has not integrated the essence into their thinking.

2.) Please identify leaders in your organization.

The person answering this question will likely point toward you and other incumbents in higher level management positions within that part of the organization. There is a common misperception that senior managers are leaders while those in middle management and supervisors are not. This is a perception you will want to disrupt, since many of the strongest leaders you will need in execution are front line workers.

3.) Given who you identified as leaders in your organization, please describe what makes them a leader?

The persons will describe the “leaders” using a description of their management roles, and often the level of their management position. Seldom is there an appreciation that a leader’s role is to make things happen that otherwise would not have happened. That is, leaders interrupt the status quo and redirect the business to a future which is much more compelling.

When you asked others to identify leaders in the organizations, did anyone identify people as leaders who are not in a management position? If so, you should be encouraged! When those around you identify people as leaders in your organization who are not in a management position, you are in an organization that is open to inspiring leadership and implementing strategic change. You will often find that many of the most inspiring leaders in an organization are not in management roles.

When I give this assignment to executives and graduate students, I frequently hear that the people whom they interviewed frequently heard “we only have managers, as I am not sure our organization would tolerate actual leaders”. While this is seldom an accurate statement, it is reflective of the resignation which employees often feel about the attitudes and behavior of incumbents in management positions. It also points toward the visible absence of inspiring leadership.

Why It Matters

Success in executing strategic growth and organizational transformation requires leadership. It is the “oxygen” which maintains life in the strategic execution. As the strategic execution expands across the organization, so too must the emergence of leaders. The execution of strategies will proceed only as fast as the emergence of leadership. Likewise, the expediting of developing leadership will accelerate execution of strategies. This is why some of the most effective execution projects combine leadership of strategic execution with developing of leaders.


Having these conversations could be a catalyst for change in your organization. If change is on the horizon, you may want to read our whitepaper entitled, ‘Change Management vs. Change Leadership’.

In it you will gain insights and answers, such as:

  • What is the key difference between these two and why is it critical?
  • A simple exercise framework to look at the level of the problem driving the change effort
  • Understanding the distinction between a ‘default future’ and an ‘invented future’
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Charters Are an Essential Tool in Post-Acquisition Integration Success

Seventy percent (70%) of change efforts fail to deliver the expected results, according to Changing Change Management in the July 2015 issue of McKinsey Quarterly. The low success rate is attributed in part to the limited scope of most change management techniques, which focus on control and minimizing distractions. Change management is appropriate for small, contained changes such as updating the software in an accounting department. It is not appropriate for change efforts as complicated as post-acquisition integrations, in which case change leadership techniques are required. John Kotter describes the differences in change management and change leadership as:

Change management, which is the term most everyone uses, refers to a set of basic tools or structures intended to keep any change effort under control. The goal is often to minimize the distractions and impacts of the change. Change leadership, on the other hand, concerns the driving forces, visions and processes that fuel large-scale transformation.

Post-acquisition integration is a complicated form of strategic execution that requires breakthrough designs and unique organizational accountability during implementation. We think that organizing the integration as a series of well-orchestrated breakthrough projects is the optimal means of:

  • Accelerating employee engagement
  • Aligning product and service offering to capture additional customers and geographies
  • Developing additional leadership capabilities
  • Establishing new levels of organizational accountability
  • Achieving the expected financial results and value capture

The cornerstone for creating Breakthrough Projects is the Charter. The Charter provides authorization and direction for the project and the people involved. The essence of a Breakthrough Project is that it is a commitment to accomplish what is possible, but not predictable given the current circumstances. Accomplishing the Breakthroughs will demonstrate that the people in the organization as capable of accomplishing more than they, and others, previously thought they could. The accomplishments achieved by the Breakthrough Project lay the foundation for transforming the organizational culture during the midst of post-acquisition integration.

A Compelling Future is Essential

While creation of a compelling future was hopefully the basis for the acquisition, it is wise to assume that the ability to comprehend or “see” that future quickly dissipates in all the chaos surrounding closing to the transaction. A Charter for Breakthrough Projects provides a new means of seeing that future. The context for writing the Charter is from the future. The Charter authorizes and creates a project which will provide, at least in part, the path from the present to the future.

Give Them a Bigger Problem

Creating a Charter for a Breakthrough Project during post-acquisition integration also has a particularly therapeutic effect. Anxiety and uncertainty are normal during an integration, since employees from both sides are unsure of what will transpire. Creating a Charter which requires Breakthroughs serves to give this group of employees and these parts of the organizations a “bigger problem to solve”. This is one of the change leadership techniques we discovered long ago. During times of transformation, assigning a group of employees a bigger problem to solve serves to enable and engage them in a powerful way. In a typical change management approach, the focus would be on providing reassurance and attempting to control their anxiety. In change leadership, we seek to deploy their anxiety and energy in addressing big challenges which if addressed will make major contribution to the newly combined organizations.

Identify the Outcomes to be Achieved

Charters are written from perspective of a future which is completely successful. That includes success in the improved offerings to customers, organizational integration, transformed organization culture, and value capture at or beyond the expected levels. Success in acquisitions requires creating clarity of outcomes which cut across functional lines. These outcomes should be thought of as a tapestry which involves all of the organization. These outcomes identify areas that are important for the long run, such as expanding the customer base not shrinking it, expanding geographies, innovating in product and service lines, and increasing market share in areas which are growing and have higher value rather than those which are shrinking.


Most acquisitions fail to achieve the expected financial results and value capture, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If a post-acquisition integration is approached as strategic execution with key actions framed as Breakthrough Projects, the rate of success dramatically increases from the predicted 30% rate.


To learn more about how to plan breakthrough projects, download our white paper, “7 Elements for Chartering a Breakthrough Project”.

In it you will learn:

  • what a ‘Breakthrough Project’ is and why it’s critical to organizational transformation
  • why creating a ‘charter’ is a critical step in the process
  • the critical roles that key people must play in the project to enhance success
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Empowering Accountability Occurs in Action

Empowering Accountability first and foremost occurs in the overt actions of leaders, such as communication. Other equally important actions include quality of strategic thinking, planning, design of strategic initiatives, sustaining execution during hard times, learning from experiences, and sustaining momentum until desired results are achieved. All of these actions are part of what is required to be a leader in a complex world.

Often, I am asked, “How can I see accountability in my organization”? The answer to seeing actual accountability in your organization is watching the action. That is, the manifestation of accountability is action. Actions shine a bright light on executives and managers being accountable, or the lack thereof. The effectiveness of your organization is determined by the degree to which your leaders hold themselves to account for their actions, communications, and results.

Executives must act from being accountable for all the results, not just the ones they like or those that make them look good. Leaders’ actions must include communication about decisions made and intended results from these decisions and actions. Employees pay very close attention to executives’ and managers’ actions and non-actions, what is talked about and what is ignored, what is rewarded and punished, and the support given for those in the organization who step out and try to lead.

Empowering Accountability

Empowering Accountability is created by leaders in order to carry out their roles. These roles include aligning people, communicating goals, developing commitments, motivating, and inspiring. Empowering Accountability creates a new context and collaborative environment for people in the business. This clarity of accountability energizes your people to step out, to be more creative and resourceful in seeking breakthrough opportunities. This energizing is the evidence of leadership. Therefore, accountability and leadership are inseparable, as leadership is seen in the inspired actions of others.

Leaders are responsible for imagining possibilities, then turning possibility thinking into an inspiring shared vision, per Kouzes and Posner in their 2002 book, The Leadership Challenge.

Empowering Accountability allows your people to experience being trusted and enabled to take action and see the consequences. Seeing the consequences is essential to fine tuning and ultimately achieving a result. Yet, much too often there is not an environment of accountability, which limits the effectiveness and satisfaction of people.

Accountability Establishes Clear Expectations

Successful execution of growth strategies requires extensive communications and engagement to assure your people know and understand what is expected of them. People will not be accountable until they fully embrace the expectations. Assumptions that “We told them” means “Our people know and understand our expectations and are on board with them” is one of the prime reasons strategic execution projects fail. That is, executives and managers assume that “We told them, so people know” is dangerous. Also, it simply does not work.

Don’t assume your employees know what is expected. An email, town hall meeting, or video alone does not assure people actually know and understand the expectations. Instead, paint a word picture by clarifying, detailing, and outlining what is expected. Unless the expectations are made explicit, as well as the metrics for how all performance will be assessed, there is no reason to expect people to act differently than they have in the past. Only when your people know and understand will they begin to take on being accountable; and only when they have chosen to be accountable can Empowering Accountability be created.

Accountability Establishes Boundaries of Behavior

Empowering Accountability involves communicating to your employees the boundaries of acceptable behavior, as well as the consequences of desirable and undesirable behavior. When appropriate, it is also important to point out the consequences for violating these boundaries.

Empowering Accountability assures that employees know which boundaries your executives want them to push. For example, in down markets, there is a strong temptation to cut prices in order to capture orders. Yet, it is hard to know when the prices have been cut lower than needed, which has a big impact on profitability.

I have worked with a CEO who would encourage his business leaders to experiment with raising prices as a means of testing where the bottom is. In many companies, raising prices in a down market would be punished. Yet, in this case, the CEO made it safe for the business unit leaders to challenge or push these perceived boundaries.

The same CEO also had a colorful way of challenging the business units to bring forward bold growth opportunities. In many companies, there is an unwritten rule that it is not wise to bring growth opportunities to the CEO that are bolder than his/her preferences. As a consequence, the CEO’s personal style and temperament becomes an invisible constraint on potential growth. This CEO’s statement was, “I want you to bring forward growth opportunities that are so bold it will make my hands turn white while gripping my chair.” That set a very high bar for the businesses to purse bold growth ideas.

Accountabilities also establish boundaries that are “out-of-bounds.” This may include geographies which are simply “off-limits” because of political instability and other factors. In one E&P company, it was simply the point of view of influential directors…

For example, I was working with a UK E&P company who wanted to expand its gas operations in Pakistan. A very influential director held strong beliefs that their company should reduce its exposure, rather than increase it. The CEO was undeterred and finally convinced this director to go on a tour with the executives in charge of operations in the country. A well-orchestrated visit was planned and was proceeding smoothly until an attempted coup broke out. While the director and executives were unharmed, there were some very tense moments. Needless to say, the director’s point of view was not changed.

Empowering Accountability assures that employees know the boundaries. This includes which boundaries the executives want them to push vs. which boundaries are “out-of-bounds.”

Accountability occurs in action. It is a beautiful thing to watch!


Implementing Empowering Accountability in your organization will take leadership, first and foremost. If you’re an executive and want to lead this change, you may want to read our whitepaper entitled ‘Change Management vs. Change Leadership’.

In it you will gain insights into:

  • what is the key difference between these two and why is it critical
  • a simple exercise framework to look at the level of the problem driving the change effort
  • understanding the distinction between a ‘default future’ and an ‘invented future’
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Executives Seduced by Types of Synergies in Mergers and Acquisitions

Executives approach a possible transaction with the steely resolve to be disciplined in negotiations. Accountants, investment bankers and lawyers are hired to assist internal resources in this process. Then somewhere along the line, this self-imposed discipline breaks down and the prices and terms which are accepted are much less attractive than planned.

I had the pleasure of collaborating with the head of M&A practice for a premiere New York law firm. His firm specializes in mergers and acquisitions and is involved in many of the largest transactions. I asked my colleague to explain the phenomenon in which executive teams start off with a disciplined approach to price and terms, only to see that discipline erode towards the end of negotiations. My friend laughed, and then gave a colorful explanation. He said that what happens at the start of the process is that the executives give instructions to advisors that they must get the deal done on the executives’ terms. With that mandate, the lawyers begin hard negotiations with the other side. Then somewhere along the way, the instruction changes to “win the deal”. While it is seldom said “Win the deal at all costs”, that is essentially the message.

My next question was, “What happened to cause this change?” My friend said, “Simple, it becomes personal”. That is, these transactions often go from a disciplined, business approach to personal competition of who will win. How this might happen is understandable given most executives are competitive by nature. “Winning” becomes defined as closing the deal, which shapes the approach taken by advisors to the executive team. My friend described this as “The Testosterone Factor”, in which primitive forces overshadowed good judgement.

My following question was, “How does that happen”? In other words, “how is this personal competitiveness enabled and explained”. My friend laughed and said just one word, “Synergies”. This is confusing if looked at from definition of synergies:

Synergies is defined as the cooperation and interaction between two or more organizations to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.

The definition of synergies is the essence of value creation in acquisitions, i.e., two companies combining to create more than either could individually. How then could synergies be “misused”? My friend said that in practice the financial values assigned to synergies is often based more on what is needed to reach the desired sales price, rather than an accurate projection of what will be achieved in post-acquisition integration. Said bluntly, synergies are a “plug” inserted into the financial models to make the transaction look prudent. Hence the seduction of synergies.

Seduction of Synergies

Synergies is the “cooperation and interaction between two or more organizations to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their individual areas”. This greater effect can be anticipated through increased geographical reach, expanded market share, improved technologies, introduction of new products and services and reduction in costs due to elimination of redundancies and stream lining operations. Perhaps the most seductive of all synergies is this latter category of cost savings. Cost saving synergies are often a primary financial basis which justifies making the acquisition. That is, the purchase price to be paid for the acquisition is justified based on expected synergies from cost savings. These cost savings are based on eliminating redundant groups and positions. This practice is so common that a classic joke says that “the word synergy is unemployment spelled backwards”.

While this practice of identifying synergies as initial cost savings continues, the data does not really support the validity of this practice. Numerous studies have reported that the expected financial savings are not achieved. Further, these expected savings are not maintained over time. Among the reasons for are:

  • The estimated cost savings are a mirage or myth. The numbers work in spreadsheets, but lack a basis in reality. Once the effort to reduce costs begins, it is discovered that the groups and functions are more intertwined with operating the business than understood by the analysts running the spreadsheets.
  • Achieving sustainable cost reductions is complicated, and requires more than slashing departments and laying off people. Unless the work being done by those departments and people is eliminated or redesigned when the positions were eliminated, the costs will creep back. If only the people doing those roles went away, the work to be done stayed, and in some cases expanded due to complications of the combined organizations.

Accommodating the Seduction of Synergies

Once the transaction closes and post-acquisition integration begins, the challenge facing the integration project managers and teams is to create and capture as much value as possible. The predictable response is to close the gap with cost reductions. This usually means cutting deeper than originally planned. While this give appearance of responsible actions, it often has the opposite impact on achieving the expected long term synergies. A classic English expression which describes this is ‘Penny wise, pound foolish”.

We believe that synergies are best achieved by creating Breakthrough Projects. These projects teams are empowered to create new thinking which will produce sustained values. If cost reduction is needed, that can be reflected in the Charter for one of these Breakthrough Projects. The team is instructed to first focus on how to reduce the unnecessary work and only then explores if headcount reductions are required. These Breakthrough Projects focus on primarily on getting costs out, rather than getting people out. When a Breakthrough Project concludes that people reductions are inevitable, then the actions related to eliminating positions is more widely supported by employees and more effectively implemented.


The reduction in self-imposed discipline is often accelerated by the seduction of the types of synergies in mergers and acquisitions. Unfounded expectations are established for value creation from the combining of the two organizations. The task of achieving these unfounded expectations falls on the post-acquisition integration project managers and teams. Using Breakthrough Projects to accelerate value creation with synergies has proved to be very successful.


Half of M&A transactions fail to create value. Ever wonder why? Download our whitepaper ‘The Conundrum of People in M&A’, and understand the critical elements that impact mergers and acquisitions success or failure.

In it, you will learn:

  • Eight common flaws in decision-making often made by executives in M&A transactions
  • Why the integration process is so critical
  • Tactics in organizing, planning, and communicating that lead to successful integrations
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