A sale or divestment can unsettle and distract employees, customers and others at least as much as an acquisition if not more – knowing you’re about to leave an organizational ‘parent’ creates even more questions than the announcement that you are about to join a new one.
Uncertainty will be rife, and the temptation for staff and customers to start looking elsewhere will be high. Maintaining strong communications with them all – even when you don’t have (or can’t say) all the answers – is critical to ensuring the performance (and therefore value) of the business entity about to be sold is retained between the announcement of the sale and deal completion itself.
Preparing for this activity needs to begin almost as soon as a decision to sell or divest has been made. Once the divestment rationale and objectives have been confirmed, an Impact Analysis should be conducted to anticipate specific changes the divestment will bring to specific groups within the organization, and their impacts within each group.
The results of an Impact Analysis can then be used to set the strategy and key principles for internal communications (to begin as soon as the divestment/separation has been announced); identify specific groups to be more deeply assessed (i.e. using an employee temperature check approach, see below); and inform the timing of both.
An impact analysis will help you understand the nature and degree of impact towards each part of the organization; anticipate people’s attitude towards the change; and so help manage the engagement and support of those affected. The Impact Analysis should be used to influence the divestment program timeline by inserting pace, or conversely by creating space when changes happen in the organization.
Once created, this Impact Analysis should be refreshed regularly alongside the post-divestment operating model design and associated workstream planning as the details of organizational changes specified through these activities will be required to update the impact analysis.
Executive sponsor, separation manager and deal team
Meeting Agenda, Whiteboard, Strategy Documents
Spend one day or more to prepare materials for a two hour play.
Consider key stakeholder groups likely to be impacted by the divestment (whether they are part of the unit being separated or not), segregated by location, business unit, level and/or function. Customers, suppliers and other business partners, as well as the public and other local community groups should also be considered. If unions or works councils are present in your organization, these should also be included in your list of groups.
Changes resulting from the divestment need should then be defined to allow deeper analysis on they are likely to be perceived and how to address them. One way to define each change is to break it down into smaller and more specific elements, eg:
Once the change itself has been defined, its impact can then be analyzed to support the development of management and communications actions to support and address issues. It is especially crucial to empathize with the group that is impacted by a change in this circumstance and understand change from their perspectives, so the more you can involve representatives from that group (within the constraints of confidentiality of course) the better.
Once the impact analysis is conducted, consider the interrelationship of interest and impact for each change and group to develop key insights, conclusions and recommendations to take forward into your communications planning. Which groups may need special care and attention, and when? Are there any employee or customer groups that are in a position – or that might be more likely – to resist or sabotage a critical change on which divestment success depends? Which groups will likely have little interest in the changes, and for which your communications efforts can be minimal? Develop 8-10 simple, practical bullets will make it easier to ensure the value of the exercise is delivered and used.
Before any divestiture, management needs to get an upfront assessment of their current resources. An organizational readiness assessment is a formal analysis and measurement of the seller’s ability to undertake such a major initiative.