Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

the day to day experiences of a consultant operating in weird and wonderful client situations

Strategy and integration – the oil and vinegar of any deal

…no matter how much you vigorously combine them, they eventually separate out again. It’s a nice analogy but why?

  • Why is it so hard to successfully translate strategy into integration?
  • Why do those who lead / create strategy well struggle so badly with integration?
  • Why does a set of activities which by their very nature are iterate, continue to be linear?

One of the joys of my work is that I meet with subject matter experts from both disciplines very regularly and I enjoy their company immensely. They are hard-working, dedicated, insightful and often extremely creative in their approach to the task in hand. But they are also fundamentally different in terms of their roles and how they deliver a successful result…’s why:


For the leader of an integration project, the focus is internal. It’s about control, managing uncertainty and risk through often convoluted governance structures, managing / coercing large teams across different and disparate business units (who often haven’t worked together before)
For the strategy developer, the focus is mostly external. What are our competitors doing, what are the macro economic circumstances in which we find ourselves, who do our products and services relate to customer needs, How do we make sense of the outside world so that we can deliver a return?

Broken communications

For the integration leader, the communication challenge is to create real understanding / knowledge and engagement across the two organisations in a way which creates momentum and a willingness to do through beyond the normal remit. 
For the strategy developer, the communications challenge is to iterate with the team involved, manage any external sources of data carefully and socialise in a controlled way with stakeholders. Controlled autocracy rather than strategy by committee!


For the integration lead, stakeholder management is about managing the masses…everyone has a perspective and the potential to disrupt. Sadly influencers and sources of power do not follow the organisational structure. Identifying and managing stakeholders becomes 50% of the job. 
For the strategy lead, managing upwards is critical…without leadership support, the initiative is bound to fail. Broader engagement does take place but because of the combination of time pressure, the requirement for discretion in a deal situation, the effort is often confined to a socialisation exercise. 


Performance and the role:
For the integration leader, the performance challenge is to maintain energy and productivity in his team over the longer term…integrations often go on for years.
For the strategy developer, it’s about absorption of large amounts of data over a short period, achieving some kind of ‘flow’ state with the team during a short intense timeframe where solutions present themselves and either included or rejected, and emerging from that with something coherent, compelling and comprehensive.

We often complain about the lack of collaboration between these two functions. In my opinion, it does point to part of the reason for the continued failure of deals to generate a decent return. Perhaps understanding the critical differences in their activities is the first step to making a positive step forward to address the horrendous statistics.

Categories: Functional Leadership, Governance, Mergers & acquisitions, post acquisition integration, Post merger integration, Strategy, Uncategorized

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