Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

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

Tag Archive for ‘communications’

  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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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What value the functional qualification in project and programme management?

Now before you all bombard my blog site with death threats, this is not going to be a diatribe against the qualifications which are prevalent in the arena of programme and project management. I fully accept that these have a place and a value, and for someone starting out in the world of complex programme / project management, having the confidence of this type of certificate is clearly important and […]

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Transformation – the new business as usual!

For several years, I’ve been drawing the same picture…the one which illustrates that the percentage of a company’s activities related to business as usual versus that related to what I call ‘special projects’ has been changing over the past ten years, in favour of the latter.  By special projects I mean: mergers and acquisitions joint ventures new product launches new territories expansion significant change in strategy and subsequent implementation requirement […]

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Working from home….management’s last bastion of control

The nature of the office workplace has changed almost beyond recognition in the last 30 years. The pace of change in terms of activity, responsibility, speed of communication, access to information and people, and complexity of the ‘transaction’ whatever the company might be engaged in, are all vastly different. Gone are vast numbers of manual tasks and with them activities and roles in the workplace. What is required these days […]

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Rights and obligations in the corporate world

I’ve been on a few flights this week and beyond catching up with my favourite shows on the BBC iPlayer (!), the article penned by Malcolm Henry which I reposted last week, seems to be having a disturbing effect on me! Malcolm was describing the debate in Scotland as to the establishment of a bill of rights and his proposition that a bill of obligations would be much more powerful. […]

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Moving from Subject Matter Expert to Consultant

Two interesting moments this week: I was asked by a client to work with his team to help them understand what it is to become consultants. Interesting mandate and many might say, why on earth would you want to do that? A powerful debate with a fellow consultant around the challenge behind being both a subject matter expert and a consultant. In preparing something for the first of these challenges, […]

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Communications…how and why we continue to get it wrong!

Three truths about communication which are accepted by most: Non-verbal communication constitutes 70-80% of the message (tone and body language to be precise). Human beings are extraordinarily good at perceiving that which is authentic and that which is not. Leaders lead through the power of their communication capability. Every project manager I’ve ever met, when asked about the core skill required that distinguishes the average from the exceptional in their […]

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Consulting language…who comes up with these expressions!

Many years ago when I first started consulting, my wife said to me, “make sure you continue to speak English, if its your single contribution to your profession that you do this, it will have been a career worth having!” It’s an extraordinary thing that we seem to delight in, coming up with language which is so nebulous as if the sole purpose is to confuse rather than clarify! Maybe […]

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The milestone or is it millstone of entering ones second half

Since my earliest days as a consultant, probably as some kind of unfulfilled legacy from my days as a headhunter, I have had certain types of ‘conversations’ with men and women of my age. Sometimes these are driven by an event such as redundancy or a cross road in terms of career, or a sense of lack of direction…which may be driving loss of productivity and motivation. I was struck […]

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Mergers and acquisitions are here to stay

I often think that I’ve dedicated the last 14 years of my consulting career to an activity which is entirely defined by the famous quote about madness…to paraphrase, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Why is this? The reason is simple: Mergers and acquisitions offer opportunities for CEOs in every type of situation; defensive, growth orientated, focused on the need to diversify geographically or […]

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The cult of the heroic project manager

I’ve spent a lot of time with a particular client this week and was reminded of the extraordinary nature and power of the heroic project manager species. Let’s define them for a minute…they live and breathe projects, they turn a rather dull programme management reporting task into a real, living document which gives insight. When they engage with a stakeholder, they do an extraordinary thing…they operate at an incredible level […]

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Prepare or free form?

Two consulting experiences with unexpected consequences: 1) You turn up at a client’s office usually from the back of a taxi with a colleague who’s been busy on something else, and the cab journey is the only preparation time you have for the meeting. Getting to an agreed agenda is almost the best you can expect from the time available and it’s with some trepidation that you walk into the […]

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The Personal Myth

Originally posted on People-triggers:
“It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble, it’s the things we do know that just ain’t so.” —Mark Twain Some (very reputable) psychologists are absolutely convinced that DNA is destiny. Other (very reputable) psychologists are convinced that your personality is shaped by what happens to you as an infant – or perhaps even in the first few minutes of…

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