M&A integration is usually made up of checklists that outline the step-by-step agendas and milestones to successfully integrate the acquired company. But during integration, things don’t always go as planned, and teams must be able to pivot and adapt to the ever-changing needs of the project. In this article, Staci van Schagen, Head of M&A Integration & Disentanglement at Philips, shares her ways on how to thrive in times of change with flexibility in integration planning.
“Teams should not be afraid to make mistakes. No one has all the answers. You just have to be able to work on the deal's assumptions.” - Staci van Schagen
One of the best ways to be flexible and agile is to have an efficient and tight integration team. According to Staci, it’s important to be aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. On her team, they feel comfortable asking anyone anything due to the psychological safety that they created.
They also have a very diverse team which allows them to work on different geographies and have a dynamic perspective on things. Every team member is learning from one another, as they maintain an open and transparent relationship. Staci also provides books and tools needed so everybody can thrive in their environment.
Continuous learning is an essential element for being flexible and agile. Perform a deep dive meeting after completing a significant deliverable and discuss the process they used to deliver, what were the challenges encountered, and how to improve moving forward. This method will help adjust the existing process and templates of the team.
Post-mortem is also another way to foster learning for the entire team. Implementing annual reviews of past deals will help the team understand why certain things happened and how to avoid them in future acquisitions.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. No one knows everything, and the team should learn to adapt as the deal progresses. Integration leaders must learn how to be a perfectionist while embracing fluidity and adaptation in response to learnings.
Pre-mortems are another powerful approach that can help teams make integration successful. It’s all about scenario planning, where teams leverage the experience and insights of business leaders to predict potential challenges and develop strategies to prevent them. According to Staci, it is better to be prepared for potential failures and be ready to reassess and come up with a new plan rather than not prepare at all.