Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

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

Change management

The subject matter expertise…of implementation

I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to the creation of a new subject matter expertise…focused on the skills and requirements of  implementation or ‘getting things done’! In every part of commercial and creative life, we are faced with a significant contradiction. There is almost universal acceptance that ‘implementation’ is where things go wrong. Yet most of the focus, attention, and resource (financial and other) in any complex transformation project seems to rest with the design and […]

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Dealing with inertia successfully – the example staring us in the face!

I wrote last week about inertia as the true killer of innovation and change. One or two of you were kind enough to comment and provide some further ammunition on the topic…which led me to try and scratch around to find examples of where the inertia of the 80% had truly be galvanised into action. Having a ginger beer or two with my friend Sanjeev Kumar in Hong Kong last […]

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Implementing a ‘bottom up’ strategy – part 3

Apologies for the delayed posting…I was at our place in Scotland on holiday and bizarrely, the golf course had more attraction than sitting behind a laptop, trying to find something meaningful to say around this particular challenge! So, for those of you who did not pick up on my previous posts, in the first one of this series, I discussed the typical approach of strategy implementation from a ‘top down’ […]

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Implementing strategy – from the bottom up – part 2

Last week, I tried to illustrate a classic top down implementation process in terms of the key problems that companies face. This week I’m going to try and describe how I’ve seen it work from a ‘bottom up’ approach. This is altogether more challenging for two main reasons: 1) Organisations rarely design their future strategy with the most junior members of the workforce in control or with much influence. The […]

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Right-sizing the culture…to dimensions that make sense!

Whenever we talk about culture, it’s almost always in macro economic terms…regions, nations, industries, functional areas all seem to be easily (if often wrongly!) defined by specific and identifiable cultural traits. These traits enable us to ascribe labels to groups of people which may be relevant in terms of description but in terms of achieving any kind of change add to the confusion rather reduce it. In my opinion, the […]

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Re-employment, not retention – that’s the name of the game these days

It is extraordinary how age creeps up on you. In thinking about and discussing this blog with a colleague recently, I was suddenly aware of how over the course of 20+ years of work, the nature of my relationship with my employer has changed and more specifically how different it is from the new generation joining the workforce. So, like many of my peers, I’m left with a dilemma. Do […]

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Agile – A change in methodology or something much deeper and altogether more challenging?

I’ve just spoken at an excellent conference on project management in KL. There were some truly interesting seminars on project recovery, risk, the danger of optimism in projects, and of course Agile. It is extraordinary what sort of reaction this topic generates amongst proven, seasoned project management professionals and the range was certainly on display at the conference. I saw everything there from fear and loathing, to contemptuous dismissal, to […]

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  I’m working on a couple of transactions at the moment and was reminded recently again of the critical role that an exiting CEO can play in smoothing the path of a deal, often at its most important phase, in the post merger integration. For those of you who have been involved in M&A, you will recognise the quintessential challenge which an acquirer faces in dealing with this individual. The facts are relatively straightforward:

  • He / she will be one of the first casualties of the deal. Typically given the nature of the deal marketplace, the new CEO is appointed by the acquirer and rarely comes from the acquired business.
  • Financially, the exiting CEO will be looked after…either through a short-term retention package or through a settlement around redundancy, giving him / her the relative freedom to make some personal decisions about what to do next.

Accepting this as the status quo is in my opinion a mistake, particularly in cases where the CEO concerned has played a key role in the development of the business, leading to its sale and continues to be valued by the employee base. He is likely to have been involved in the hiring, mentoring, and career development of key people, notably his / her direct reports, who will be important in the integration process. He / she will have had an impact on the culture of the organisation in the way that decisions are made, where autonomy sits in the corporate hierarchy, what level of risk appetite exists and perhaps in the flow of information around the business. He / she will have had a role to play in the informal organisational structure, where the key influencers sit and how they interact. Now, without doubt, having him / her around can be more than awkward for the incoming CEO. There is the potential for a disruptive influence, for a lack of clarity around who the ultimate decision maker is, perhaps even for the creation of some kind of corporate terrorist who will actively undermine the new direction of the business. There is also the possibility that he / she does not want to be involved in the next stage of the company’s development. Clearly these are all unacceptable and need to be dealt with quickly. However, let me create an alternative scenario. Let’s consider the role that this person could play given their unusual position in the merging organisation and with the appropriate good will:

  • An initial engagement between announcement and completion which focuses purely on the prevention of value destruction…retention of key individuals, strong and well directed communication around the transaction as much as that is possible, engagement of the key customers maintaining service standards and relationship management during a disruptive period. In fact, in my experience this period has significant potential for major value destruction as the attention and focus of key people drifts to the prospects of their immediate future.
  • A role around Day 1 and for the first 100 days which is as chief communicator and translator / interlocutor for the acquired employee base, using that trust, those relationships and that intimate knowledge of how the business works to create some stability in the critical initial period. I’ve worked on several transactions where the exiting CEO used his influence to translate the requirements and expectations of the acquirer to his workforce, giving an understanding of culture and work processes which removed the emotion from the deal.
  • An adviser to the integration steering committee, to be used as necessary to comment on and provide insight on direction, plans and key initial activities.

And in return for these important actions, a compensation structure which is firmly linked to some initial KPIs around key employee and customer novation / retention, effectiveness of communication flows, and perhaps stability of revenue / cost post completion. I read in the FT and indeed many of my colleagues are suggesting that there is an upturn again in the deal volume being experienced. Having spent 14 years consulting in this arena, it would be great if we could finally move away from the cycle of value destruction and find some new solutions to an old problem. Using the insight, relationships and knowledge of an exiting CEO might be a small step in the right direction.