Chapter 4: The Agile M&A Process Model

Play #1 - Kickoff Meeting

The first play in the M&A process is a site of difficulty for many organizations: conducting an effective kickoff of the formal diligence phase of the project. The preliminary stages of the deal culminate in the kickoff, which marks the formalized intent to buy or sell a company, and the deal officially leaves the drawing board. The kickoff is a critical moment for establishing the tone and momentum of the deal process in a larger sense. A well-planned and well-executed kickoff elevates the morale of the deal team and promotes confidence both internally and externally. A botched kickoff can have the opposite effect and cast a shadow over the entire M&A project. On a more pragmatic level, teams leave good kickoff meetings informed, aligned, and with clarity regarding their roles, duties, and overarching end goals. The kickoff accordingly plays a crucial role in enabling a team to operate in an Agile manner.

The deal lead drives the kickoff meeting. Representatives from the corp dev team and the deal PM play supporting roles as needed. At the broadest level, the meeting is meant to ensure that everyone involved in the M&A initiative shares a common understanding of the project and of their roles. The meeting should cover a number of topics in detail, including the following:

  1. Overview of the target asset (who are they? What business are they in? Where are they located?) and the acquisition strategy (why this company?)
  2. Conditions for success (what specific goals and targets do we need to realize in order for this initiative to be successful?)
  3. Any challenges, risks, or concerns which have already been identified
  4. Other relevant information uncovered by corp dev during preliminary due diligence
  5. Milestones, roles, and duties for due diligence (that is, who needs to do what, and by when)
  6. Milestones, roles, and duties for integration planning
  7. Who can communicate with the target asset, and under what circumstances
  8. How the deal team will work together (what tools will we use? How will we communicate? What plays will we run?)

The kickoff meeting provides the deal team with a good opportunity to determine the cadence of meetings and to establish expectations for any work to be completed before the next meeting. The kickoff also grants the PM a platform to outline their expectations regarding workflow and processing and to supply details on tools and training.

Establishing Tech Tools

When it comes to selecting tech tools, choosing web-based collaborative software platforms can help teams realize the Agile goals of cross-functional visibility, collaborative workflow, and comprehensive information access. During due diligence, the choice of the data room will likely be out of the deal team’s hands — but the team can nevertheless establish internal project management and communication tools to use throughout the process. Using the same suite of tools in task tracking and communication throughout the entire M&A lifecycle alleviates many of the old headaches and obstacles associated with Excel and email, and helps to transmit the information uncovered during due diligence over to the integration effort.

Tool Setup Checklist:

  • Create accounts
  • Configure access rights for each account
  • Create custom workflow for project and customized statuses for the process flow
  • Provide walkthrough/training for workflow

The kickoff meeting is, moreover, a good opportunity for the deal PM to determine which additional plays to field during the diligence process. The Agile M&A Process recommends that any M&A project, no matter the circumstances, should involve plays such as frequent standup meetings, a prioritized backlog of tasks, and periodic team retrospectives. These plays will be detailed below.

Although the kickoff meeting represents a relatively small segment of the Agile M&A Process, it is essential in establishing team alignment. The kickoff play provides the framework enabling the deal team to complete the M&A process in an Agile manner.

Tips and Pointers:
The kickoff meeting can be scaled down and run by small groups addressing subprocesses within a larger project. The small-scale kickoff is especially useful during post-merger integration, when numerous small teams will be working on independent projects in parallel. Augmenting a team-wide integration kickoff meeting with smaller functional kickoffs allows alignment to grow from both the bottom up and the top down simultaneously.

Key Takeaways:

Value Proposition: holding an effective kickoff meeting brings teams into alignment, which leads to a more effective project execution

How to put it in play:

  1. Communicate the vision
  2. Define the key objectives
  3. Provide the team with a mechanism for improving the process with each iteration

Anti-patterns to avoid:

  1. Information silos and/or bottlenecks
  2. Inefficient information management
  3. Only involving “experts” in decision-making