Why M&A Plays

Selecting an Integration Lead

An integration lead must fit a specific type of profile/role that can only be found within an organization. Run this play to identify who is best suited, from your own organization, to lead integration efforts for a specific deal.

About the play

This play is designed to identify the best integration lead for your deal.


Integration is essentially setting up a new business. Two separate entities are combined into one to deliver growth. This is why an integration leader should not be promoted from the ranks of a project manager. An integration lead must fit a specific type of profile/role that can only be found within an organization.

Run this play to identify who is best suited, from your own organization, to lead integration efforts for a specific deal. If no one seems like the fight fit after using this play, then consider hiring outside experts


Deal Sponsor, Corporate Development Lead, HR, Seller Deal Champion




Pen and Paper


Depends on how complex the candidate pool is and the number of conversations need to gain consensus from your selection group

Running the Play:



As soon as the deal sponsor gets buy-in from the board to do a deal, the corporate development leader and the deal sponsor need to meet, preferably with HR. The above parties need to discuss who, within the organization, would be appropriate candidates to be the integration lead of that deal. The brainstorming does not end when the initial meeting ends. To be true to a people-centric integration approach, and if time allows, the seller deal champion should also be involved. The seller deal champion can provide recommendations on how to open up the candidate pool to someone who may be highly qualified at the target company.



Below is a criteria card to aid your thinking.

  • Good Management Background - The integration leader should be spearheading the entire integration team because this person knows the business well enough to make crucial decisions during execution. Putting an HR manager to lead integration might cause problems, as they wouldn’t know anything about the sales or production of the business. The perfect type of person in this role is a mini-CEO, COO, or GM-type person. 
  • Deal Savvy - Pick someone with M&A experience, such as a previous deal sponsor or a recipient of a deal. Integration is a tedious process that could take months, even years. If the leader doesn’t know what to do, the process will drag out even longer. 
  • Professional Willpower - An integration lead needs to be able to stand their ground when the going gets tough. Someone who communicates well and does not hesitate to keep the team moving forward. For example, there will be plenty of deadlines that look impossible to achieve given the resources. An integration leader must have the courage to maintain a strong course of progress by helping teams think through the delays, blockers, and bumps.
  • Credibility- As with any leadership role, the integration lead should be someone who has great credibility and whom others will respect. The primary role of the integration leader is to oversee functional heads during execution. Integration won’t progress if employees don’t listen to the integration leader or follow the deadlines put in place. 
  • Leadership Skills - An integration lead needs to know how to influence people. Someone who has experience managing a dozen stakeholders at any given time. A lot of times, people lose focus and motivation when a project takes too long to finish. A good integration leader must be able to rally the troops and keep the project moving. 

An eye for details - Select someone who leaves no stone unturned, and knows how to uncover risks and mitigate them. There are so many nuances during integration, and the integration leader must be meticulous enough to check everything.


External Experts

If you can not find anyone in your organization that is suitable to lead integration for a specific deal, then consider looking for outside help. Integration professionals are always a good choice since they are experienced and knowledgeable about the process. The above scorecard can be used to also measure external resources.

One of the biggest advantages of an external consultant is their inability to be biased. Too often, integration leads have friends down the hallway and there are interpersonal relationships that come into play. Biases are mitigated with an external party. 

However, one of the biggest disadvantages of an external consultant is that any new member to an organization will need to overcome the trust and confidence issues that will most certainly arise. Strong executive support will be of the utmost importance for the external consultant in order for them to lead integration.


An Important Intangible

A crucial criterion for the integration lead should be how well networked the person is within the organization. At the end of the day, a key part of integration is to help each workstream deliver on the tasks that are important to the success of an acquisition or divestiture. Without the clout that a well-networked manager often has, there may be uphill effort to acquire political capital, which can drag out integration.

One very effective way to find the right person for the integration lead role is to nurture someone. Take a moment to step back and strategically think about an integration lead before you are pressed against the wall to find one for an immediate deal. Any deal will certainly involve workstreams. And from these workstreams, you can find the diamonds-in-the-rough who can be a future integration leader. Once these candidates are spotted, offer them an opportunity to work closer with a deal lead or deal champion. Give them more access to the steering committee to help them earn comfort under fire.

All too often we look passed what is right under our nose. Nurturing existing talent within an organization is inexpensive. The right In-house talent will have already accumulated herculean political capital and respect from their peers, way more than an consultant can bring to the table. So start with the intangible to turn any integration into a tangible success.