Merger or acquisition steps

Merger or Acquisition Steps

Before an executive or business owner makes a decision on a merger or acquisition there are many steps that need to be considered. These steps, when taken, are a reaction to what’s happening in the business or marketplace at the time, and influence the direction and creation of a company’s strategy.  Decreases in share price as well as layoffs and work stoppages are typical reasons why a company will need to rethink or change its strategy. I refer to these reasons as Rumblings.

From my experience, this is typically how employees experience these changes in their company.   Rumblings  are business indicators or activities that lead an organization to change course and are often the precursor to a merger or acquisition. Rumblings are quiet, low vibrations that, when you hear them, you know something is there, but they are in the distance or not entirely discernible.  Rumblings provide us with clues about what’s ahead.

Rumblings

Whether the rumblings are under the hood of your car or in your organization, as an executive or business owner you need to be aware of your how your employees are experiencing them and create a strategy to manage them.

They will occur whether you are working in a public or a private company.  Your employees will experience these rumblings as changes in economics, layoffs, rumours, work slow-downs, and the frequent presence of the executive leadership or Board Members/Investors.  As you read through each of the rumblings described, consider how these might be taking place in your own organization and what can be done to mitigate them with your employee base.

Regardless of the direction in which you want to take your company, you will be heavily engaged in the planning of these events. While you are doing so, many of the activities will not be visible to your employees and they may perceive the lack of corporate transparency as leadership deception. This deception is not intentional and is often unavoidable.

Leadership Deception – What Executives Can’t Share

Leadership deception in this context is referring specifically to those things that executives or business owners won’t—or even can’t—share about a merger or acquisition.

Keeping your cards close to your chest is imperative in ensuring business survival and growth. The lack of transparency when working on a merger or acquisition is unavoidable and often necessary in the merger and acquisition space.  It is done knowingly to maintain shareholder/investor confidence,  keep employees in key positions within the company from leaving, and to get through all of the legal and regulatory hoops required for a merger or acquisition to happen.

In addition to those reasons, the story for the “street” has to be carefully crafted, cultivated, and protected to ensure the transaction has the best possible chance for success.   Your employees will experience this lack of short-term transparency as a form of deception.

Entering into the deal-making space can be a mutable and ambiguous experience with many twists and turns along the way. Frankly, often executives and business owners don’t know to what degree the level of fallout will be when engaged in a merger or acquisition.

Although executives and business owners can plan and prepare for the deal, it is inevitable that there will always be changes that will need to be addressed and solutions incorporated along the way.

Corporate Mergers and Acquisitions

Corporate Mergers and Acquisitions

The use of the word merger is a business term that allows an organization to position themselves for one of two events: a takeover, or a plan of arrangement. Throughout my book, you will hear me refer to the joining of Petro-Canada and Suncor as a merger.  Tory’s LLP provided legal counsel to Petro-Canada in 2009, and in the document Key Legal Considerations for Mergers & Acquisitions in Canada, they describe those events as either:

  1. Takeover bids.
  2. Plans of arrangement.

A takeover bid is:

  • An offer to acquire shares of target directly from shareholders.
  • Where some form of second-stage transaction will be required to obtain 100% of shares.

A plan of arrangement is described as:

  • Single-step negotiated with the target and undertaken in accordance with the statutory requirements of the target corporation’s governing statute.
  • Where shareholder approval is required—threshold is typically 2/3 of the votes cast at the special meeting.
  • Also requires court approval—determination of procedural and substantive fairness.
  • Offers the most flexibility for tax planning and dealing with various classes of securities.

The difference between corporate mergers and acquisitions practical terms: “In a merger, two companies come together to create a new entity. In an acquisition, one company buys another one and manages it consistent with the acquirer’s needs” (Schuler, R. & Jackson,  S., 2001).

If your merger or acquisition is to ensure your company’s survival, the speed and approach required to manage employee engagement will be quite different than if you are looking to make an acquisition for growth.

In my research, I found a multitude of articles, white papers, and books that detail the success factors for corporate mergers and acquisitions. There are even more articles that describe the reasons why these ventures fail. In many of these writings, the reasons for merger failure are described as either the inability to remain nimble due to increased size, or a lack of cultural integration, or people issues. For example, in the Daimler-Chrysler merger that took place in the late 1990s, issues around cultural differences and the employees’ understanding of the vision of the new company were not addressed properly.

“Take, for example, the union of Daimler […] and Chrysler. That 1998 merger of equals created the giant German-American carmaker DaimlerChrysler. Just two years later, Jürgen Schrempp, by now in sole command, having seen off Robert Eaton, the former head of Chrysler, claimed that the term ‘merger of equals’ had been used only for ‘psychological reasons,’ thereby effectively acknowledging that equality was just a word used to sell the deal to Chrysler folk. It was a Daimler takeover. The marriage struggled on until May 2007, when a divorce was announced.” (Brew, A., 2014).

This merger ultimately failed because there was not a clear vision of the new company, and employees were not told in authentic terms what the value of the transaction was going to be or how they could contribute.

There were two different cultures, located on two different continents, and their product offerings were quite different. Merging companies is an intricate, multi-faceted process laden with many pitfalls and opportunities for success.

When employees are uncertain about the direction their company is taking, loss of productivity and rumours about what is happening will result.  If these rumours or rumblings are not managed properly, they can cause confusion and misinformation at a time when an organization can least afford it.

 

Merger or Acquisition? What’s Your Dinner Party Theme?

Merger or Acquisition? What’s Your Dinner Party Theme?

Suncor, Petro-Canada Announce Merger…

“Appealing to Canadian nationalism, Suncor Energy Inc. and Petro-Canada said Monday that a proposed merger between the two oil players would create the country’s largest energy company and provide the oil patch with protection against potential foreign buyouts.” – CBC News, March 23, 2009

Declare Your Merger or Acquisition Vision

When orchestrating a large-scale change in your business, such as a merger or acquisition, the corporate vision of the new company needs to be declared immediately for three reasons:

  1. Employees need to know why the merger or acquisition is happening and how it supports the vision.
  2. Determining the vision identifies who should be invited to the dinner party.
  3. Communicating how the merger or acquisition will unfold establishes clarity and transparency about what the merger or acquisition is trying to achieve.

If you are having a Mexican fiesta party, you don’t want your preferred guests coming dressed for a black tie affair! Sounds simplistic, but in the merger or acquisition space, it can mean the difference between having a great vision with the wrong teams—employees and leaders without the right skills or abilities trying to execute on a strategy—or worse, having the wrong vision and strategy, and frustrating talented employees and stakeholders who are not engaged or able to carry out the strategy.

When employees understand the reason behind the transaction, they can begin to engage in the transformation. It will help employees decide if they want to or can be a part of your dinner party going forward.

Declaring your dinner party theme or corporate vision early will help employees make key decisions for their future, help them determine the contribution they want to make to the newly created company, and, most importantly, help them decide whether or not their values align with the vision.

Ego Balanced with Pragmatism

“An architect imagines what if. A builder figures out how to. Great structures only emerge when the two work well together in pursuit of a shared vision.” – Simon Sinek

Executives and business owners need to exercise caution as they unveil their vision. The importance of a clear and concise vision is crucial, especially after the announcement of a merger or acquisition. It is one of the first ways leadership tells the employees what they need to be committed to.

No one cares when a great vision is unveiled if it is impossible to achieve. Creating a vision and understanding how to implement that vision are not always complementary skills.

Vision is an organization’s first attempt at expressing the type of culture they want to instill.   As Thomas Edison tells us, “Vision  without  execution  is  hallucination.”

Highly skilled executive teams possess the rare ability to see that which is readily observable today, and balance it with the perception of what may happen in the marketplace in the future to use it to its advantage.  Simply stated, great leadership acts as an organization’s weigh scale, ensuring equilibrium between today’s activities and tomorrow’s opportunities. When creating a corporate vision, the up and down motion of balancing what is happening today with what is to be achieved tomorrow can be very challenging.

Mergers, acquisitions, and takeovers are becoming an increasingly common strategy to make a corporate growth vision come to life.   The promise of reduced costs, more efficiency, increased cash flow, better asset mix, and raised shareholder value can be quite seductive as the company moves its fulcrum on the corporate weigh scale to maintain balance and enable growth and profitability.

All too often, the pursuit of an acquisition or merger sounds like a great idea that offers many possibilities to an organization, but the probability of those possibilities actually becoming a successful venture is unlikely. In the 2001 McKinsey article, Why Mergers Fail, Bekier, Bogardus, and Oldham postulate that: “Success is determined above all by the ability to protect revenue and to generate growth just after a merger. Those acquirers that get the balance wrong— plunging headlong into cost savings—may soon see their peers outstrip them in growth.”

And therein lies the challenge of successful execution of a merger or acquisition. The newly created corporate entity is likely larger and definitely more complex. Management of the joint assets and people require significant and careful review, care, and attention to maximize benefits.

Establishing a new vision that inspires, honours employee contributions, and is motivating is not an easy task. The theme of your grand dinner party and the sequence of the events that follow should be clear to your guests. I can say with hand on heart that as an employee I could not have articulated the newly merged company’s vision authentically because I was mentally stretched at the time with urgent tasks at hand that involved a lot of hard work. Corporate vision is a living thing.  It should never be stagnant and must reflect the corporate values, the corporate mandate, and inspire and guide employees to feel proud of that vision.

When the Suncor/Petro-Canada merger was announced on March 23, 2009, the president and CEO of Suncor said, “I don’t know if it is a marriage made in heaven. But it is a match made in Canada” (CBC News, Mar 23 2009). In retrospect, his statement was an honest and accurate perception of what was about to happen to the balance of Suncor’s weigh scale.

One of the most interesting things about combining two companies together—and why so many fail—is  that no one truly knows what the balance will look like going forward. You can plan, prepare, and create a clear path of what it should look like, but in the end, it is still an unknown.  Like an on-line dating couple who  get married,  they take the plunge and are hoping to reap the benefits of mutual compatibility (merging), shared assets, and the promise of regular intervals of contentment (profits). Suncor and Petro-Canada had been dating for a long time and they almost wed previously in 1999, so when they finally created the “match made in Canada” it was the culmination of many years of courtship.

Ego balanced with pragmatism is the idea that executives and business owners must invest equal time on crafting the vision and planning for its execution in order to realize any real long-term benefits and maintain employee engagement. In order to craft your vision, you need to be clear as to whether or not you want to merge with, acquire, or take over another asset. This informs your strategy and the types of guests you will want and need to invite to your dinner party.

Improving the corporate merger experience

Improving the corporate merger or acquisition experience

My experience as an employee in one of Canada’s largest energy mergers in corporate history has helped me formulate a simple but new idea for how to make the corporate merger or acquisition experience better.

Mergers, acquisitions, and takeovers, are not going away.  They will remain a key strategic lever that organizations will pull to achieve better business outcomes quickly.  Why don’t we start to consider mergers or acquisitions as an opportunity for celebration for employees and executives alike? We should challenge the norm and create a new way of approaching employee engagement in mergers or acquisitions.

A grand dinner party is a structured and special event that often has great importance. The invitations, guests, place setting, and seating are all there to set the stage for dialogue, good food, and a common celebration.

What if we approached mergers or acquisitions with the intent of inviting our employees to a grand occasion where they are important guests? Simple idea, but imagine what it would be like if employees felt like they were welcomed into a grand occasion with all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with it?

This isn’t about being soft and squishy for no reason. A Grand Dinner Party is a metaphor for the steps to create the employee engagement that underpins and drives corporate alignment and sustainable business results.

One of the main reasons mergers or acquisitions fail is because executives and business owners don’t invest enough time developing and executing a transformation plan for employees. Mergers or acquisitions and the path to transformation require a long and carefully thought-out journey. It’s a worthwhile journey if you are prepared to follow some simple steps.

The three merger or acquisition phases outlined below are designed to help guide executives and business owners in managing the employee experience.

Three Phases of a Merger or Acquisition

Transaction

The transaction phase occurs when an organization is actively creating the deal and doing the necessary homework to finalize it.  This is when a company starts looking at the financials, assets, supply chain, and regulatory or legal issues pertaining to buying another company they wish to acquire to determine if a successful deal can be made.

During this time, executives or business owners may engage only a few employees in key positions within legal, finance, and  human resources to determine the viability of the deal and then take actions to make it come to life.  In dinner party terms, this is where you decide the theme of your party and create an enticing invitation for the guests you plan to invite.

Pre-Transformation

 The pre-transformation phase is the period of time directly following the transaction phase where the deal has been struck and it has been communicated internally and externally to all stakeholders. This is an extremely critical time in a company’s merger or acquisition journey as it determines who will run the newly created organization.

People, processes, and technology are the most significant areas that an executive or business owner needs to focus on during the integration.  How each of these areas is impacted depends largely on whether one company is being taken over by another or if two organizations mutually decide to merge together and maintain elements of both companies.

In reality, most mergers are takeovers where one company’s way of doing business dominates and the other is absorbed over time.  Once your invitation is sent, this is the part of your party where you welcome the guests to your home. It’s important in this phase to ensure you have invited the right guests, set the right place settings, and that your guests know what’s on the menu so they are prepared and can take part in the menu you are serving.

Transformation

Transformation is the achievement of the intended outcome of the transaction. If done properly, it can enable growth and opportunities for the new company and its employees. This is the phase of a merger or acquisition that is rarely given a continued, dedicated focus by executives or business owners. That is because true transformation takes time.

The development of the new company’s culture, values, and ways of getting the work done require deliberate and consistent attention over a span of many years to achieve. Transformation is the delicious dessert at the end of a fabulous meal.  Like a vibrant, healthy culture, your guests will talk about it and want to enjoy it over and over again.

Mergers, acquisitions, and takeovers are reported in the media with increasing frequency.   It is an important strategy that companies use to ensure their survival and future growth. In fact, many employees have experienced or will experience a merger or acquisition in their career, or some sort of corporate consolidation.

What we rarely hear about is the impact that mergers and takeovers have on the employees who are involved. We hear about job cuts or massive layoffs, but that’s usually the end of the story. What happens on the inside and its effects on employees is rarely revealed.

Initially, my reason for writing my book, A Grand Dinner Party, was to reconcile my own feelings about the merger I experienced and to share that story with others so that they could see the experience for what it truly is: an opportunity.  I believe that these significant and often disruptive corporate events present unique opportunities for individuals to grow personally and professionally.  I want to inspire executives and business owners to consciously think about and participate in mergers or acquisitions in a better way.

While they likely consider the impact of these transactions on their employees, the focus of executives and business owners is to secure a successful business deal.   What will make a more successful transaction is when an executive or business owner can make the deal and have a plan in place to manage the impact on their employees. Having a plan to manage the impact should also be a focus. The result is that executives and business owners will find their employees contributing and engaging more to achieve a successful merger or acquisition outcome.

With a shift in perspective, executives and business owners can still make a merger or acquisition deal and maintain engaged employees to achieve the business results they desire.

The intent of A Grand Dinner Party is aspirational, and highlights ways executives and business owners can achieve a more successful merger or acquisition outcome by planning for it in a clear and purposeful way.

Simply put, if you don’t plan for the transformation you wish for, the merger or acquisition will fail.   To paraphrase from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,  “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there” (Carroll, L., 1865).

To that end, I believe there should be a fresh mindset for employee engagement in mergers or acquisitions.  That mindset is one of inviting employees to help transform their company and workplaces into something better.

“Be transparent about why you are doing the M&A. You don’t want to lose your key people. Find a quick win to demonstrate the value of the deal and show you are moving forward. Measure your success and know your KPIs.” – Donna Garbutt, CEO, Maxxam Analytics

Mergers and Acquisitions Are Like a Grand Dinner Party

Mergers and Acquisitions Are Like a Grand Dinner Party

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
– Leonardo Da Vinci

Like Da Vinci, I am a believer that clarity is best achieved through keeping things simple.

If you are an executive or business owner contemplating a merger, acquisition, or growth strategy, the metaphor of a grand dinner party is my way of simplifying the important steps required in managing and guiding employees through mergers and acquisitions more effectively.

A grand dinner party is a structured and special event that typically has some importance and, most importantly, is planned for.

Most of us have fond memories of creating or enjoying a delicious meal with family and friends.  When I bring people together for a meal, I usually have a reason or theme in mind when starting to plan an enjoyable dinner.

Sometimes I plan my dinner party based on a specific dish I would like to make, or sometimes there’s a theme I would like to create the meal around.  Other times, it’s about whom I would like to bring together to enjoy a well-thought-out meal.

I give particular thought to the menu I would like to prepare that would complement the guests I plan to invite. The right mix of people with the right menu can create a delightful and memorable evening that friends, family, or special guests will remember for years to come.

It doesn’t matter if it is a formal dinner, a barbeque, or a potluck with the neighbours, there is something very special about sharing a meal with others that inevitably creates a sense of belonging and a connection. Even a regular middle-of-the-week meal with family sets the groundwork that allows us to share information and exchange ideas that build and strengthen relationships. Over time, that groundwork can become the foundation of a strong family unit, group of friends, or even business partnership.

So just how are mergers and acquisitions like a grand dinner party? During the planning stages of a dinner party, typically you:

  • Establish the theme or reason for your party.
  • Create the invitations to determine who is coming for dinner.
  • Set the table.
  • Welcome your guests.
  • Serve them a great meal, including a delicious dessert.

All of these steps are taken to set the stage for dialogue, camaraderie, and a common celebration. More on this concept in my previous post on mergers and acquisitions.

What if we approached mergers and acquisitions with the same intent of inviting our employees to an occasion where they are considered important guests, where there is dialogue, camaraderie, and a reason to come together? To engage your employees during a merger, parallel the planning required for a dinner party in the following ways:

  • Create the Vision – what’s the theme or reason for the merger or acquisition gathering?
  • Create the Invitation – what corporate values of the new company will attract and retain your new and existing employees?
  • Create the Welcome – create an on-boarding plan to the new company for your new and existing employees.
  • Set the Table – have a pre-transformation plan for managing the integration process.
  • Work Together – decide what’s on the menu for the new organization and how you will serve it; determining what processes, tools, and systems will be used in the new company.
  • Dessert – create an inviting and sustainable foundation for your new culture.

The grand dinner party analogy has been specifically designed to highlight the steps that an executive or business owner can take to navigate their employees through the three phases of a merger or acquisition.

These phases are the Transaction (pre-deal), Pre-Transformation (integration), and Transformation (post- deal). Transformation is the desired outcome, but long-term, dedicated attention is not typically paid to how transformation can actually be achieved. More about these phases in my next post.

Planning for transformation seems like it would be a very important step executives and business owners should take, yet mergers fail more often than not due to the lack of a dedicated plan to navigate employees through the transaction, pre-transformation, and transformation phases of mergers and acquisitions.

If a merger or acquisition is on your company’s horizon, a dedicated plan that is well thought-out and well lead is imperative:

 “[…] firms that have a systematic approach to deal-making are more likely to be successful. Underlying this successful approach is the recognition of attention to many people-issues (a.k.a., human capital) that exist throughout the stages of mergers and acquisitions” (Schuler, & Jackson, S., 2001).

This post is an excerpt from the book A Grand Dinner Party

corporate-process

Culture

C-U-L-T-U-R-E.  It is a ubiquitous and extraordinary concept that we know is critically important in the success of merged corporations, but those same corporations still continue to have difficulty creating, setting and maintaining corporate culture to a positive effect post-merge. I asked myself why culture is so important and why it is not properly enabled or leveraged effectively

I started to look at all kinds of definitions of culture and what it is.  There are many descriptions and explanations of culture out there and most of them describe it as a set of beliefs, customs, behaviours or ways of thinking for certain societies or groups.  All of these definitions are accurate but I believe that there is a fundamental piece missing.  Culture is deeper than beliefs and customs or behaviours.  Those are the physical manifestations of what culture IS.  What I think is missing is what culture DOES.  Culture in my model, is the place where values, community, belonging, opportunity and growth layer upon each other to create an unforgettable imprint on those who work within an organization.  That imprint is powerful and stays with an employee for years, possibly forever.  If culture has the kind of power that will make or break an organization’s success or keep employees engaged or walk away, it is worth paying attention to.

The definition that resonates with me the most as I think about my own experience working in a large organizations is Cicero’s in his Tusculan Disputations, where he writes of a cultivation of the soul or “cultura animi”.  Cultivation of the soul?  What the heck does that mean?  I pondered the idea of the cultivation of the soul for some time and believe that it fits when you consider culture in the broader corporate context.  On a micro level, if you’ve had the opportunity to work in an organization where you felt your values were matched and honoured, made important connections and friends, had some career opportunities and successes, made a contribution and grew your skills or those of others, you have experienced culture as a dessert worth having over and over again.  A great work culture cultivates your mind, actualizes your personal and professional goals AND pays your bills!   At the macro level, in an organization where the values are clearly defined and upheld, effort is put forth to create a community of workers who believe in the organization’s strategy.  Those workers in turn seize the opportunities for the company and the result is growth for the workforce and the organization – market share, revenue and profits are all positively impacted.  The cultivation of an organization’s soul at its core should always drive to results, most importantly, those that impact the financial health and stability of the company.

fragile-employee-loyalty

Fragile Loyalty

When I ask myself what was the most difficult part of experiencing a merger, I think of many things – long hours doing work I didn’t enjoy like laying people off or building new organizational structures and having to choose who will keep their job and who will not.  I think about the loss of colleagues and clients that I enjoyed working with and that feeling of uncertainty about what the new company was going to be like.  When I try to distill exactly what impacted me most significantly and continues to linger years later, it is the loss of allegiance and loyalty to what was.  Let me preface this by saying as a self-declared Generation Xer, I have limited experience with company loyalty.  In the nineties, Gen Xer’s were constantly worried about getting laid off or finding a way to advance our careers in a marketplace that was well, full of challenges.  Those challenges for a new graduate included slim or no job pickings.  If you were lucky to be hired you settled for a low paying job that didn’t relate to your degree, and then eventually being downsized.

Many of us experienced that and survived those challenges.  Survival, not loyalty was what was most important during those times.

I eventually landed a position at a great company.  Almost immediately after starting to work there, I did feel pride in working within is cultural framework and a strong sense of commitment to it.  I believe those feelings were a form of loyalty.  Being loyal to a company was something that was new for me and I started to take it for granted.  I hadn’t fully appreciated just how much until we taken over by another company.  During the process of integration and absorption into that company, my loyalty to the new company became quite fragile.  I observed the complete loss of loyalty in many employees from both companies during the integration process.  Their ties of loyalty were in effect, broken.  There are many ways that I would describe the idea of fragile loyalty, but the most succinct is that when an organization and individual become misaligned in achieving a mutual goal.  When the direction changes or is not transparent from the employee’s perspective or when what is said and what is done is not consistent, loyalty becomes fragile and eventually breaks.  To understand why loyalty can break, one must appreciate that there will be pockets of organizations that will cease to exist after the merger and as the activities of integration progress.

Somewhere along the way, I internalized the things that impacted my feelings of loyalty towards a company and after some contemplation, the question remains – what were the experiences and more importantly, the intangibles that actually created my sense of loyalty?  What bonds or connects any of us to an organization?  What makes us loyal to anything in our lives?  Before you can prevent broken loyalty, it’s important to understand what loyalty is and those things that imbed it in employees.  Fred Reichheld in his book, The Loyalty Effect, defines loyalty as “the willingness to make an investment or personal sacrifice to strengthen a relationship”.  Loyalty is a feeling of being connected that is not spoken or discussed but is shown through respectful actions and results.  These results are stirred by positive experiences shared in our day-to-day work life as we fulfill our job obligations.  What bonds us to an organization is demonstrated through caring for others and the appreciation expressed by our company leaders and co-workers.

Creating loyalty and a sense of community are incredibly important as they both enable people and productivity within an organization.  Employers can no longer trust that the right level of pay and benefits will secure their workforce for an indeterminate period of time.  A continuous and concerted effort must be made by an employer to ensure that they are maintaining and strengthening the bonds of loyalty with their employees even when a merger isn’t happening.

mergers-acquisitions

Working in the Abyss – What Just Happened?

An abyss “is a very deep, unfathomable gorge, anything that appears to be infinite or endless such as time or despair or immeasurable like space, deep oceans, vast chasm…conceived of as a bottomless pit. – Dictionary.com

The definition above describes a dramatic and immeasurable space without end.  For me working in the abyss was like a reoccurring nightmare where I found myself lost in a remote, isolated and unfamiliar location.  I felt stuck and for a time, immobilized with no clear direction as to where to go. It was like being on cold, dark tundra on a wintery night with a chilling, icy wind blowing over the barren landscape with wolves howling in the distance.  The light from my kerosene lamp was fading and I had limited supplies.   What I yearned for most was to find somewhere safe and familiar to spend the night away from predators and things unknown.

Once a merger or significant change in your organization has been announced and the hands have all been shaken and the photos taken, you may find yourself in an awkward space of being forced to let go of what you were doing that was familiar, comfortable and had control over. You will have to quickly step-up and take responsibility for brand new experiences that hold you in nervous anticipation with not having a clue as to what you are supposed to do next.

You too, may find yourself contemplating the work ahead having not fully grasped what has happened and how you will adjust to new requirements, ways of doing things, processes and life in what may look very much like a new company.  The abyss may not necessarily be a scary place for everyone, but at the beginning of a merger or acquisition, the space between announcement and integration will look and feel different for each employee.

The integration of people, processes and cultures is without question significantly more complicated especially during the period of the abyss when the majority of employees do not know whether they have a job going forward or not.  Integration requires a steadfast commitment to treating people with respect and dignity so that we “get it right”.  (Paulineism).   Getting people’s hearts and minds engaged and aligned to the purpose of the change is not a small feat.  Without engaging those hearts and minds mergers will inevitably fail.

To endure being in the abyss, one must believe that there is a light at the end and that the changes being experienced will result in a positive outcome.  The abyss is an unavoidable stop along the path to integration and beyond.  Abrupt changes, disruption and transitions in a merger are to be expected.

Your own perspective on the merger will act as your compass and will guide you through the abyss.  Perspective is so important because it enables you to see the career and personal expansion that is available to you.  There will be a lot of work ahead and you will not always have as much information as you would like.  The variety of emotions you will experience during that time, are gifts. The feelings of grief, fear, anxiety or excitement will arrive and are in service to you.  These feelings are metaphorically represented as your lamp out there on the tundra and will illuminate the way as the integration progresses.