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Leadership alignment is one of the most underrated aspects of M&A. But without leadership alignment, there will be confusion regarding what the company will represent post-close and what needs to be integrated. The company will be left with an inconsistent narrative and messaging, which leads to retention issues. This article discusses leadership alignment and creating a GTM strategy for successful deals, featuring Cole Breidenbach, VP, M&A Integration & Strategic Initiatives at Okta.

"Establishing the north stars at the beginning of the integration is critical. So even if things are going to change, everybody has something they can anchor off of." - Cole Breidenbach

What is leadership alignment?

Leadership alignment means both leadership teams are aligned on communications, change management components, strategy, and transaction execution. Leadership alignment starts with the CEOs of both companies and needs to be set as quickly as possible. 

The key to leadership alignment is transparency around what is critical to the integration plan. It's easy to get excited about the strategic vision, but people need to understand how to operationalize that vision and determine what success looks like. After CEO alignment, start communicating to the C-suite and VPs so that everyone speaks the same language. 

Alignment for integration

To ensure alignment, create an environment where everyone can talk regularly about integration plans, decisions, and changes that need to happen. Functional partnerships with counterparts are crucial for success. 

Also, promoting open discussions so everyone can communicate concerns transparently is paramount. The more alignment upfront, the better the transition is for everyone. Leaders must regularly reinforce a consistent message throughout the process. 

Challenges in Integration

The biggest challenge during integration is the go-to-market strategy. If once competitors, leaders must create a collaborative environment and a model where both companies can co-sell in the field. Operating as one in front of customers is essential. 

The cultural component is also a critical part of success. Even though the mission statements and cultural pillars look the same on paper, the differences will emerge during integration. Detect differences early and communicate the changes centered around what's essential to the organization. People appreciate honesty and transparency from leadership.

Agile M&A Approach

Regardless of the deal type, an Agile M&A approach starts with leadership. How the leadership communicates and establishes the north star of the transaction will set the tone for everyone else. No matter what changes occur during integration, if everyone knows what they're trying to achieve, they can make the right decisions.

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