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Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures: Assessing the Impact of Change

Oct 8, 2019 by Mike Weaver

Having performed multiple Office 365 tenant to tenant migrations, I’ve worked alongside many organizations going through either a Merger, Acquisition or Divestiture; business activities which prompt the need to consolidate Office 365 tenants.

However, while our team can happily take care of the technical side of things, what continues to surprise me is the inconsistent – and often incoherent – manner in which business leaders manage change and consider the impact this has on their workforce.

This is what inspired me to team up with MJ Inspire to create a practical framework we’ve dubbed ‘Method to the MADness – Leading IT Teams Through Change’.  This is a seven-part series, and in the first part, we focus on Impact, i.e. understanding the nature of change and what this means for your team.

MAD Impact – Transcript

Mike Weaver: So, what do we mean by Impact? During the Impact phase, we want to really assess where we are so that we can understand the pace of the change.

What is the business driver? Is this a Merger, Acquisition or Divestiture? Is this merging into another company, and we’re going to keep that segment of business on the side? Are we going to truly do a full integration? Is this an acquisition of a competitor, and we’re bringing two pieces together? Is this a divestiture – are we spinning off a segment of the business?

Understanding the business driver behind your change relating to Merger, Acquisition, Divestiture helps define the pace and how long you have to go through these phases. This will also give you insight into the urgency of change from your management and leadership team.

It’s also time to get back to best practices. This is the phase where you’re not going to skip your one-on-ones; so often we have teams that have been working together and collaborating for so long, they’ve gotten comfortable with each other. This is where your, ‘Oh, do you want to meet today? No, we’ll push it another week.’ This is the time to get back to basics and ensure that you’re following your best practices from an HR standpoint.

This is also a chance to understand the impact to you and assess yourself and ensure that you’re ready for this change. Is there behavior that you need to change or are there things that you need to be aware of yourself in a time of stress so that you can better prepare your team for this change?

MJ Flanagan: Why is impact important? Why is understanding it important? Well, it is only by understanding the factors that impact change within projects – Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures – that we can develop a strategy, a ‘cunning plan’ if you like, to move from there to Integration as quickly as smoothly and as cost-effectively as we can.

In my experience, I have found that when teams and leaders move through projects, especially those challenging projects like Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures, they will revert to their comfort zone, and their comfort zones will be based on technology – the systems and the processes.

Read more: For Easier Adoption Add Change Management

But, in fact, where we need to focus a lot of our energies are or on the people.

Mike: So, how do we do this? How do we bring this all together in the Impact phase? This is really about going back to basics and ensuring that everything is getting done and taken care of. You’re not just checking boxes, but you’re actually going through and doing things like reviews and one-on-ones, doing them with great detail and agendas.

A lot of time with reviews, especially with a tight relationship with the manager, not everything found its way into the HR system. This is not the time to do that. This is a time to get these done get them updated and ensure that they are complete. One-on-ones need agendas so that everybody knows what they can get through, so before your meeting ensure both people have a chance to add agenda items to get the best quality outcome.

You really want to begin to understand what your team is going through and get ready. What you also want to understand, in these meetings people may express themselves differently because they’re in a time of stress, so you may learn more about people that you didn’t quite understand because you’ve been in a stable environment for so long. Don’t assume that how they’ve acted before and challenges that they’ve expressed before are going to stay the same; actually the opposite, assume that things may change and be open to listening and ensuring that you’re getting things taken care of.

When we talk about documenting, it’s ensuring that you’re documenting the formal and informal processes in your HR systems. A lot of times in these projects, you might get pulled away and sometimes decisions may be made without you. You want to be sure that your team can stand on its own in these systems. If it’s not documented, other people don’t know what’s going on.

The other thing in this phase to keep in mind, you may not know what’s going on, and that’s OK. This is about getting your team engaged, getting people ready for the future phases of the model and just get people talking.

Be open, be honest and you’ll be ready for a good outcome in the model.


Mike: So let’s apply this a little further. So a lot of times, we get questions, particularly around this. I’m going to read our question here. How do I manage my team’s anxiety about their job security while dealing with my own? In many of these projects, this is a reality at some phase of a Merger, Acquisition, Divestiture – how can I lead a team without knowing what’s going to happen long-term when I don’t even know what’s going to happen to my job and role?

MJ: It’s a great question. So, firstly, if we are going to manage other people’s uncertainty, concerns – we have to make sure that we’ve managed our own. So, start with yourself, and ensure you are in a good place – resilient – to be able to then manage your teams. So, start with you.

Secondly, keep talking to them. Understand how what is happening impacts them personal/. We know that during high stress, during high change, people feel very alone, and they believe that they are the only ones. By continuing a dialogue, by continuing to talk and understand, we’ll get them to open up, we’ll understand how it’s impacting them, and then we’ll be able to help them with it.

Mike, have you seen this happening in some of the projects that we’ve been working on?

Mike: A lot of time in our tenant to tenant projects, this is really common because people are really concerned. The other thing with tenant to tenant projects that’s interesting is you’re dealing with both teams, and that can magnify because now you’ve got two teams going through this stress at the same time, and that makes it even more challenging when we’re dealing with these kinds of projects.

I think with the part that you mentioned about just having the dialogue in itself shows a positive step, and I think as we’ve started building this framework that in itself helps you get ready for these other phases. So, you may not know what’s going on now but at least you’re kind of doing your inventory, understanding what’s going on in your team, so they can be better prepared for the other phases.

MJ: Something that’s just struck me is, when so much is happening, as well as the day job, it’s important to sit down, get your book – get your notebook – what are the facts here? What is impacting them, from all areas? So that you can decipher the fact from the fiction. And then deal with the processes, the systems, the change, and the people logically.

Mike: It’s amazing where we don’t want to remove the emotions, so to say, but at the same time allowing yourself to temporarily remove the emotion, but get down and document these basic things, might get you more prepared for your projects ahead.

MJ: Last thing I would say is, ensure that you’ve built your support network; so, your resilience – whether that’s through your peer group,  perhaps we’ll talk about that a little bit later, but also talk to your boss, talk to your line manager, let them know how you feel, allow them to support you. And if they can’t find, someone that can.

Mike: Great advice, thank you.

MJ: Do you think the type of Merger, Acquisition or Divestiture impacts the change process?

Mike: I think absolutely because what it comes down to is, the type of Merger, Acquisition or Divestiture automatically creates almost its own culture, its own situation that occurs.

If you’re acquiring a company that’s similar to you – maybe it was a prior competitor – teams are typically going to be combined all the way through the organization. Whereas if you acquired a company that is complementary to your business, a lot of times, some aspects of the business, like Human Resources, IT, Finance – those areas will combine, but the actual business isn’t combining, it’s going to be kind of held off on its own as a sister organization.

A divestiture in itself is very, very different because now you’re actually moving people to another company, and that’s a whole different challenge, not only from the data aspect, which is quite difficult to handle, but the emotional impact if you’re saying goodbye to people and you have team members that are on existing teams. And depending on the kind of divestiture, entire teams may not move; it may only be certain members of certain teams, and that can be very difficult.

MJ: So, what we’re saying here is at this Impact stage, be clear about the type of change that people are going through, so that you can understand the impact.

Mike: Absolutely.

MJ: Got it.

Impactful advice

If you can relate to the points raised in this conversation and would like further advice on developing your leadership team and preparing employees for change, please get in touch with MJ to hear more about her business strategy and culture programs.

And if you’re in need of outsourced technical expertise, please see Quadroteach’s Office 365 migration services, which include mailboxes, email archives, and PST files, as well as tenant to tenant capabilities for multiple workloads.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll be examining the Inform phase and discussing the importance of creating multi-faceted communications plans to keep your MAD project on track.