I get giddy reading about the Microsoft/LinkedIn deal. It’s not because, as The New York Times suggests, it reminds us of “the heady heights of yesteryear’s technology valuations” – although, for those of you who remember those tech bubble days, weren’t they effervescent?
Instead, I get excited because I know there are and will be lots of communications involved, and all eyes will be on the communications leaders to get the strategies and execution right. Yet, how will they do that?
First, let’s consider why communications are so important in the first place.
Mergers and acquisitions are intended to deliver value. At the same time, they are notorious for doing the exact opposite. In fact, one KPMG study in 2012 indicated that 83% of mergers in their data set had failed to deliver on their promise. Not good.
What’s driving these disappointing results, according to George Bradt in his 2015 Forbes post, are several factors, not least of which is the mismanagement of cultures. And he is not alone in thinking this. He echoes findings from data sources, such as the 2006 Thirty Years of Mergers and Acquisitions Research report by Susan Cartwright and Richard Schoenberg. Their study pointed to mismanagement of culture fit as a key culprit of failure.
That puts a lot of pressure on us internal communicators. As the organization expresses itself and within itself, it shapes and sustains its culture. We need to consider the media, messaging, tone, timing and credibility of voice and the implications for the future-state, joined up organization. So I suggest that internal communicators conduct a communications cultural due diligence, as rigorously and systematically as that done for the financial, legal, and operational elements of a merger or acquisition transaction. Since we share our business leaders’ goals to improve performance, increase efficiencies and leverage synergies, we need all employees to be fully informed and engaged. To achieve this means collecting comprehensive employee data, as well as communications preferences and communications style data. We need to thoroughly analyze all the information to develop a strategy that supports the business objectives.
The promise of value is too important to leave to chance, and internal communications practices and tactics are too important as a leverage point. Joining two businesses won’t work without solid employee buy-in and strong, well-planned communications that reach the relevant stakeholders effectively.