Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

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

Functional Leadership

The future role of HR – whose decision is it?

http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/10/its-not-hrs-job-to-be-strategic/ Interesting blog which goes to the heart of the challenge for HR going forward…how to separate the strategic from the non strategic…and probably more importantly, who is going to deliver the strategic. At the moment, the new generation of HR leaders seem to be as badly equipped as those in the last twenty years to take on this task…with some notable exceptions of course, some of whom I’ve had […]

Continue Reading →

The project based organisation

Recently I’ve had a few conversations with colleagues around the ‘projectisation’ of corporations, an ugly but appropriate phrase to explain the next stage in corporate development. This is as a result of a blog which I published last week focusing on the perfect storm convergence of a disengaged and therefore unproductive workforce, an increasing pace of change and a significant uplift in complexity. So, how to deal with this. Well, it […]

Continue Reading →

The perfect storm which has the potential to challenge the corporate world as we see it today

I have spent the last few days at the Symex Conference in Palembang, Sumatra, speaking and listening to a bunch of bright, articulate and challenging speakers. It has lead me to a conclusion about a significant challenge that corporates around the world face over the next few years….a convergence of issues or perfect storm which have the potential to change the corporate landscape as we know it. Let me set […]

Continue Reading →

Buying the right quality at the right price – the challenge for procurement

I’ve had two conversations with clients around procurement in recent times which I wanted to share with you. The first one included a remark from a client which struck me to such a degree that I wrote it down precisely. ‘Our procurement process actively discriminates against smaller firms because of the perception that they offer limited services’ were his precise words. The second was with a procurement professional who told me that his brief was […]

Continue Reading →

Leadership – nature or nurture?

With thanks to Roddy Millar with a comment from last week’s blog about ‘bottom up ‘ strategy implementation, I wanted to explore leadership in a little more detail. Let me start at the beginning, usually a good place. Let’s start with a group of boys and girls starting at nursery / kindergarten together: One of their first collective experiences involves working with leadership. Importantly, their leaders come from within. Whether […]

Continue Reading →

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’ […]

Continue Reading →

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 […]

Continue Reading →

Post merger integration – in every way, an oximoron!

There’s an magnificent irony to the expression ‘post merger integration’ which, as the M&A rollercoaster starts to speed up again at an alarming pace, I wanted to share with you. In fact every part of that phrase can be challenged… Post – the reality as any practitioner will tell you, is that the work starts a long time before completion and potentially announcement. Many studies have shown that if you start […]

Continue Reading →

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 […]

Continue Reading →

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 […]

Continue Reading →

Have pity for program leaders of a post merger integration – they need your sympathy!

Imagine the following situation: You’re given the challenge to program manage a post merger integration, carried out in the public eye, with all of the details (cost, complexity, high level strategy) broadcast to the world. After a few months, you discover that actually there were a number of other people in the frame for the work, who for one reason or another, couldn’t take up the challenge! You’re given a thousand pages of diligence, written […]

Continue Reading →

  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.    

People in project management – the ultimate elastic band in terms of productivity!

With thanks to Toby Tester for this topic, I wanted to explore a subject which has been close to my heart for more years than I can say. How did we get to a situation where the presumption is that human capital productivity stays constant in periods of intense change? I know this blog is supposed to be a series of incisive commentaries based on personal consulting experience but the […]

Continue Reading →

Bringing project management into the mainstream

With thanks for an excellent seminar last night by Thomas Martin of Forward Intelligence Group and previously Microsoft, and also a reflection from a number of other clients and colleagues, I’ve been observing an interesting series of phenomena in the last few months. A redrawing of some of the traditional boundaries between transformation and business as usual activities, specifically when it comes to allocation of CAPEX. It seems that there […]

Continue Reading →

Telling the truth or giving a public opinion…a political minefield!

With apologies for a slightly introverted blog, I wanted to raise an interesting issue which has been raised by three people this week who’ve somehow stumbled upon this random collection of thoughts and ideas in the last week. It appears that what people like most about this blog is the candour and openness of the commentary. Why is it so difficult these days to give an honest opinion without fear […]

Continue Reading →

The role of a global function…adding value or merely cost?

For many of us and indeed for many of my clients, the activities of global functional leadership can be a source of frustration and occasionally extreme irritation. That’s not to say that the individuals within those functions are not performing to the best of their ability and don’t have all the right intentions for the business. Indeed one might say that to have reached that position requires talent, a strong network and […]

Continue Reading →