plan, can include microsites providing timely
updates and employee-focused FAQs addressing general concerns and queries.
“M&As by their nature are usually very restrictive in terms of
what can and cannot be shared
prior to close. This can create uncertainty amongst
staff,” Ms. Mathew
says. “It’s better to
be honest and let
staff know what is likely
to happen rather than let
them feed on rumors.”
Eliminating redundant services, such as
HR, finance, facilities and marketing, requires
project management teams to adhere to the business cases. “This is your single source of truth,” Mr.
For example, when two medium-size companies
merge to form a new company, each comes with an
HR department with processes and systems in place
to meet the needs of its pre-merger organization.
But post-merger, neither can scale those systems to
meet the new need. “The board then needs a business case for each stream so that it can prioritize
future investment,” he says.
Stakeholder management is key to that process,
he says, as project leaders secure buy-in for deci-
sions rooted in the business case. Personalities and
politics can spur conflicting objectives over the
direction of the integration roadmap. “When that
happens, your task as a project leader is to docu-
ment the business cases for each of the options and
look for your board and sponsors to direct accord-
ing to the business case, future strategy, funding and
any other external influences.”
For instance, HR project leaders have to decide
which benefits to continue and which to discon-
tinue, and how to compensate employees in the
case of the latter, Ms. Mathew says. And a word
of warning to organizations expanding their global
footprint: M&A integration projects can encounter
region-specific requirements. In the Middle East,
for example, residency and work visa requirements,
along with nationality quotas, can present chal-
lenges, Ms. Mathew says.
“Early involvement of an HR project manager—
even as early as the pre-merger/due diligence
phase—means that any cultural differences and
risks can be identified and programs can be put in
place that will ensure a smooth transition for all
parties involved,” she says.
While M&As often create redundant functions,
layoffs aren’t automatic, Ms. Mathew says. (See
“Survival Guide,” page 41.) To build a post-merger
talent and resource plan, she finds answers to several questions: Can the acquiring company absorb
the skill sets and expertise? Are there project
resources that can fill current gaps, and who are
the key staff to retain? What benefit programs are
currently offered, and what aspects can be transitioned to make change less stressful for the newly
“Early HR engagement gives project leaders the
ability to analyze and understand each company’s
organizational structure, management style, decision-making process and employee skill sets,” she says.
The bottom line with M&A projects, says Mr.
Schmittknecht, is that getting teams from organizations to work together effectively requires a deft
hand—and plenty of patience.
“You really need to rethink your assumptions
about how things work. You need to pad integration projects with more time than you think might
be necessary. The time needed to form an effective
team is just longer due to different corporate cultures and ways of working.” PM
—Betsy Mathew, PMP,
DarkMatter LLC, Abu Dhabi,
United Arab Emirates