Dealmakers Planning for a Successful Integration: The M&A Roadmap for Success

Last month In MidMarket Talk, Dealmakers Planning for a Successful Integration: Performing Cultural Due Diligence (CDD) focused on providing better understanding the concept of Cultural Due Diligence (CDD). Now we can turn our attention to some of its nuts and bolts and how the process of CDD might look like as it plays out in the real world of mergers and acquisitions.

Not to beat a dead horse here but we keep asking the question of whether Dealmakers or intermediaries care (strategically or personally) how the deal goes after it closes. Once again, our contention is that Dealmakers can ensure the long-term success of their deals by including CDD which will build their credibility and enhance their reputation by making deals successful in the longer-term.

What we are finding, however, is that many dealmakers/intermediaries really do not appear to care or figure the cost to deal with human capital issues is too high and they simply walk away from potentially lucrative deals based on that fear or concern. Maintaining that posture might be safer but what about the potential lost benefits? Our quest here is to make Dealmakers more effective in what they do. Dealmakers and intermediaries are quite accustomed with financial due diligence and a look at how CDD might rollout could be very beneficial.

As related last month, the SVP of Human Resources for a Canadian engineering and construction company sought out Vector Group, Inc. a few years ago wanting to make their acquisitions more successful. He had a rather dog-eared copy of Carleton and Lineberry’s book, Achieving Post-Merger Success: A Stakeholder’s Guide to Cultural Due Diligence, Assessment and Integration (2004). Based on his knowledge of Vector Group’s expertise, he wanted assistance in developing the HR Blueprint for Success for their internal HR Acquisition Team. We developed the Blueprint for that specific client to more clearly define and leverage the role of their Human Resources team in driving the success of present and future acquisitions and bringing desired results. Our current M&A Roadmap for Success© evolved from that original effort.

The Roadmap is a guide to the acquisition process beginning with Target Identification of potential new businesses to buy and ending with the successful cultural integration of the acquired company up through the first year. Just as a building plan would work, the Roadmap brings logic and a means to successful creation of a new entity. Be aware the Roadmap is not prescriptive but does offer numerous tactics and tools that an HR team can use in assessing the potential risks and increasing the potential benefits of a specific acquisition. Portions of the Roadmap do provide some systematic directions but overall brings a way of thinking and doing in terms of bringing in a new organization to any company.


Undoubtedly, HR is probably in the best position to lead aspects of the acquisition process centered on the people issues (organizational culture) that so oftentimes cause failure. The people strategy for the Roadmap poses Objectives and Deliverables that will identify and surface possible challenges with intended outcomes. HR remains as an artifact in this document but organizations may easily substitute other groups or teams from other functions who may direct M&A activities. The Roadmap identifies nine phases in the process but this generic model can be customized for any company who has a dedicated team for mergers and acquisitions. The model follows:

M&A Roadmap Flowchart

In the fully detailed Roadmap each Phase starts with a description of the Phase followed by short sections covering Business Perspective, Business Deliverables, HR Objectives, and HR Deliverables. We include a general “Hints” section that provides guidance and subtleties involved in successfully completing each Phase. A descriptive listing of potential methods, processes and tools to support the activities of the Phase and bring desired results financially and on the people issues follows this.

Each phase also outlines roles and responsibilities. We believe the use of an identified Integration Manager (IM) is crucial for the success of the merger or acquisition. Once the company chooses the IM, HR must work in tandem with the IM (Phase III) to support and develop the IM. The IM plays a critical role in making the integration work. Each phase has deliverables but just as importantly, each phase has references to documents and tools that will be of extreme benefit in bringing those deliverables.


Highlights of the Roadmap

  • Phase I -Target Identification—finding desirable target companies that would bring additional revenue, technology, market share or other needed attributes. Describe business unit objectives and the deliverables which include identifying the top players (key talent) per specific criteria. Deliverables: Focusing on those which meet the criteria and generating lists of prospects.
    • The time and effort involved in integrating acquisitions, particularly larger acquisitions, is a critical variable in overall success and HR (or the acquisition team) can make intelligent estimates as to relative ease of the integration activities when comparing two or more potential acquisitions.
  • Phase II -Target Evaluation—To assess at a high level a specific company’s viability as a vehicle for furthering a given company’s strategic growth objectives. Selection criteria may preclude many evaluated companies from getting beyond this step.
    • This is the time to develop a realistic evaluation model since one of the business objectives is to determine a preliminary degree of integration. It is also critical to identify essential/key employees and develop a retention package for technical experts and management.
    • The investigation of integration issues begins with an initial assessment of integration strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) through preliminary research into available resources (journals, blogs, social media, business press, annual report, etc.), This could also include evaluation of the cultural aspects of (any) country which could influence our management or our financial results
  • Phase III -Pre-Decision—Go/No Go Decision Meeting—a high percentage of the potential acquisitions that make it to this stage are approved to proceed to full Due Diligence.
    • Business objectives include having approval from executives regarding strategy, price, ROI and due diligence process along with identifying key areas for due diligence.
    • Selection of the Integration Manager (IM) takes place here.
  • Phase IV -Due Diligence—This is a critical data-gathering phase. Information is sought for ascertaining the relative ease of the acquisition.
    • Application of the CDD data gathering process targeting the 12 cultural domains using qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Conduct the Cultural Assessment and compare the data and information about the cultures of the two companies to ascertain the degree of difficulty and effort needed to align and integrate them.
    • Highlight the major risks related to past, current and future operations of the business
    • Develop mitigation strategies
  • Phase V -Integration Planning—Critical to the success of the acquisition is the integration plan. What level of work will be required to integrate the two organizations?
    • Objectives include finalizing the integration plan which includes the people strategy
      • Communications strategy
      • Key messages
      • Audience
      • Integration and branding strategies
  • Phase VI –Go/No Go Decision Meeting—This is “go” or “no go” on the acquisition or merger deal. HR or acquisition team presents the findings of the Due Diligence effort.
  • Phase VII -Share / Asset Purchase Agreement—Legally protect what the company is buying and closing the deal with equitable conditions for both parties.
    • This is the first concrete step in building/developing a long-term relationship with key new employees and can set the tone for expectations and trust as the acquisition proceeds. THE COMPANY does not yet have a track record with this newly acquired group. Being thorough, timely, and prepared is far more important at this point than any later time. Managing this first impression well will set the tone for the future and earn the capability of weathering later problems with no development of ill will.
  • Phase VIII -Integration (First two weeks)—The first two weeks of Integration are tantamount to the success of the acquisition. The foundation of this critical phase is built around change management principles and specifically around the “human side of change.” Build on Declarative Change. Develop a common language around the business strategy and priorities.
    • Business objectives include:
      • Make people aware of major changes
      • Enhance the benefit
      • Enhance the clarity
      • Diminish the uncertainty
      • Diminish the effort
      • Maintain operational focus
      • Deliver the communication strategy
    • This phase is as much about perceptions and emotions as it is about concrete knowledge and data-based activities. If the newly acquired employees do not feel served, supported, and cared for they will tend to assume the opposite.
    • While checklist-guided with many planned activities, briefs and materials this phase is most definitely NOT about ticking off all the planned actions as they are done. The result here is to have newly acquired staff understanding of and comfortable with their changed employment conditions. If the staff does not feel good about the new situation by the end of this period, the overall objective of this Phase has not been met.
    • If people feel their issues and concerns are “heard and understood” by their management, even if management may not agree and/or cannot do anything about it, overall feelings of support, trust, and general job satisfaction along with productivity will go up and maintain levels higher than most companies.
  • Phase IX -Integration (First year)—This phase is all about getting the management group aligned and integrated. A necessary component is conducting a review of leadership and management to help the leadership team keep actively focused on and working together in bringing expected results. Moving the management team to action in achieving the ROI may call for new and different behaviors and focus.
    • While the previous Phase is about getting people individually comfortable with and accepting of the new employment situation – this Phase is more about maximizing group performance and organizational efficiency and effectiveness.
    • While organization charts do a good job of identifying specific responsibilities and activities by unit, what is not dealt with is how the “space in between” the organizational units (the “white space”) is managed. Management of the “white space” is an area of mutual responsibility and one with considerable potential for productivity, efficiency, and quality increases when handled appropriately.
    • This is the period where the face of the activity should, over time, shift from the Integration M to the ongoing management team.
    • Management and the merger or acquisition team needs to find real and meaningful things around the integration to celebrate as the newly formed company goes through this period. People collectively need to feel accomplishment and success for the extra effort involved in adjusting to new situations – this is a way of meeting this organizational need. (Carleton & Craig, 2011, 2017)

Our experience led us to believe that there are no two organizational cultures that cannot be successfully integrated if a proper Due Diligence, including culture issues, is performed and based upon that analysis a robust and prescriptive integration plan is developed and implemented in a flexible and responsive manner. Differences in culture (“the way we do things around here”) can be identified, brought to the surface and dealt with in an appropriate manner thus ensuring the success of the integration. Most challenges that occur are predictable and can be mitigated appropriately bringing desired results.

The recommended activities and tools are, in most cases, highly flexible and scalable meaning they can, and should, be easily adapted to fit the issues involved in any acquisition – be it a 15-person familyowned company highly focused upon one activity or a 2000+ person company with multiple and diverse business activities.

To paraphrase the tried and true idiom of “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy,” for our purposes here “No plan survives contact with the real world.” Remember, a plan is about anticipation and intention and will, at times, vary widely from what needs to happen as things unfold. Be prepared to deviate. This is about achieving the objective of successful integration, not simply developing and then blindly forcing through a set integration plan where you check off the activities as they are done.


Remember, too, that the CDD process is complex but not complicated and well worth the effort to insure deal success on the long-term.

Next month: Dealmakers Planning for a Successful Integration: Carrying Out the Integration



Carleton, J. Robert and Craig, Gary. W., M&A Roadmap for Success, Unpublished Working Paper, ©2011, 2017, Vector Group, Inc., Denver, CO.

Carleton, J. Robert and Lineberry, Claude S., Achieving Post-Merger Success: A Stakeholder’s Guide to Cultural Due Diligence, Assessment and Integration, Pfeiffer, John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

Craig, Gary W., Organizational Effectiveness, Systemic Diagnosis & Cultural Assessment: A White Paper, Published in Envision within Project Fusion, Perot Systems Corporation, 2007

Craig, Gary W., Cultural Assessment: Considerations, Approaches and Implications, Unpublished Concept Paper, Vector Group, Inc., 2013


©Vector Group, Inc., 2018


Gary W. Craig is Managing Partner and COO for The Americas & Asia, Vector Group, Inc. You may reach him at Vector Group is a global consulting firm specializing in systematic and systemic organizational diagnosis and interventions to ensure that corporate strategy, culture, and infrastructure are aligned to achieve breakthrough success. For more information, you may visit our website at or call us at (800) 566-0877.

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