Even in the simplest of scenarios, merger integration typically becomes a complicated business.
The story arc begins with high hopes and heaps of potential. Too often, what comes next is a series of pesky obstacles and setbacks. For many companies, the story ends with the job done but outcomes that fall disappointingly short of the original vision. The specifics vary, but what underpins them typically does not: a lack of genuine leadership and employee buy-in to the many changes at hand.
For this Fortune 50 life sciences company, significant acquisitions weren’t new terrain. The company had developed approaches over the years to steer around many of the usual integration pitfalls. But this $800+ million acquisition—of a best-in-class wholesaler with 10 distribution centers and thousands of employees—needed to go just right.
What was at stake? Uninterrupted delivery of countless life-saving medications to pharmacies, healthcare providers and their patients. Meeting the needs, and sustaining the loyalty, of the wholesaler’s extensive customer base. Also: C-suite expectations that the acquisition would be accretive to earnings per share within 12 months of the transaction’s close.
The company’s vice president of integration and transformation moved decisively. Steady hands with a knack for managing change were called on, both from Navigate and inside the company. Navigate’s charge was clear: to develop an overarching change management strategy and provide execution support across all integration workstreams. These included retention of top talent, transition of the customer base, integration of functional areas, optimization of revenue capture, and protection of customer loyalty.
The integration team set to work quickly. Collaboration was the order of the day. Strategy was created, iterated and launched. Leadership at each distribution center was prepared and briefed in-person, and change agent networks were structured and activated at each site. Recognizing that largely one-way communication might be the standard—but definitely not the gold standard—the Navigate team took special care to establish bi-directional feedback loops. With these mechanisms in place, the integration teams had nearly immediate feedback on the effectiveness of transition communications and processes, and could make adjustments to protect employee morale and productivity.
Easy? No. Successful? Yes. As the project wound down, the vice president of integration and transformation cited the Navigate team’s partnership, expertise and collaboration, noting that the net effect was “a level of change management leadership, guidance and support that I had not seen in large transformational change before.” The combination of a comprehensive change management strategy and focused, dedicated workstream teams ensured a story that ended not in dashed hopes—but in value realized.
The vice president of integration and transformation cited the Navigate team’s partnership, expertise and collaboration, noting that the net effect was “a level of change management leadership, guidance and support that I had not seen in large transformational change before.”
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