Thursday, March 29, 2007

A fish rots from the head down. Sometimes problems start at the top.

I read this great article on the Chief Learning Officer website. It states the obvious that sometimes, the problems in an organization, lie at the top. We've all known executives that have the, "I got this far, I can't get any better" mindset. Yes, they may have gotten their organization to where it is. Yes, they may have taken it from their garage to a publicly traded company. However, with this sort of mindset, are they really going to be able to take their company to the "next level"?

If the CEO/owner can't accept feedback, and doesn't think that he/she can get any better, where else will this show up in the organization? Often times we've seen this sort of mindset narrow the vision of entire organizations to the point that they get left behind by the market or in their industry. True leaders are flexible, accept feedback, and KNOW they're good. But they also KNOW they can get better!

So what can companies do about this? By participating in a company-wide assessment process, these sorts of issues will be brought into the light. Imagine the power in having an outside consultant come into your company, administer an anonymous, company-wide assessment, then sit down with the CEO/owner of the company and tell them they're the problem...

Leadership Deficiencies: Problems Often Start at Top

March 28, 2007 – Kellye Whitney, Senior Editor

No leader wants to admit he or she is responsible for cultural or organizational problems, but often that’s exactly the case — organizations frequently reflect the character of the individual at the top.

A CEO or other leader might even have blind spots that inhibit performance, but with executive coaching, 360-degree feedback and other development tools, blind spots and learned behaviors can be relearned for the individual’s (and organization’s) benefit…


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Incredible statistics on the LACK of success of European mergers

This is an incredible picture of the "state" of Mergers & Acquisitions. The E.U. isn't so far away from the United States that we can think that we're immune to these numbers. They're stating a 93% failure rate due to the fact that companies are prioritizing financial and legal due diligence over the "intangible assets" that are critical to a merger. This stresses the importance of going through a PRE-MERGER CULTURAL DUE DILIGENCE!

"And in the rush to close the deal, they often give short shrift to executive assessment and selection, the new organization structure and designing the key jobs needed to be done to implement the strategy." How many times have you heard this as the REAL reason a merger fails?

Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts...

New Report Points to Damning Statistics

Posted on Tuesday, March 27 by Richard Edwards in

Barclays pursuit of ABN Amro received top billing in business pages across Europe last week, but a study published today might make the banking giant think twice before concluding the deal.

According to research by global consultancy firm, Hay Group, a staggering 90% of European Corporate mergers fall short of their objectives, with just 9% achieving anything approaching success...


Monday, March 26, 2007

It's in the plan! (Pt. 2)--Integration Success Similarities

Our observations of successful integrations have shown some striking similarities. The biggest difference is the inclusion of a cultural integration plan among the other, more obvious plans such as Legal, IT, Financial, Operations, etc. Following are our observations:

* Integration GAP Analysis

Successful organizational (cultural) integrations begin with a formal GAP analysis. Common approaches such as “We go in and meet with the different teams…”, and “We expect the executive teams to know their groups” are clearly not working. There are many integration assessments being used today, including ours. Choose a reputable proven tool that provides the necessary data for a complete integration plan. Having the correct data is not enough. It is vital that the right people assess the data in order to arrive at effective conclusions in order to put the proper plans in place for success.

* Shorter Integration Time Frames

Successful cultural integration plans range from 6 – 12 months versus most 3 – 5 year integration plans that we see. A successful plan actually starts slower, builds a stronger foundation, and gets up to speed much quicker.

* Measure the correct variables

Successful plans measure data that gives accurate predictions on what will happen next. This differs from “dashboards” we have found that measure only historical data (showing only what has happened). Data points must include behavioral and action measurements as well as result data points. How you do something is as important as what you do. Choosing the correct data points, benchmarks, and meeting systems are found in all successful integrations. Also, based on initial measurements and results, we often see the necessity for these data points to change in order to achieve the ultimate goal.

* Accountability to the ultimate goals

Accountability to the initial goals of the merger, acquisition, turnaround etc. is an often missed key within the unsuccessful integration plans we have reviewed. “Good enough” is an integration killer.

Ultimately we are speaking of the successful change management theories that have been proven over the years. Our observations show that it is not effective to assume that individuals will get behind a cause for the money or because it is their job. Successful integrations begin with the realization that individuals need to be allowed to choose this commitment and understand this choice up-front.

It's in the plan! Our observations on current integration strategies

The purpose of integration is more than just the integration of assets, systems, and processes. It must also achieve the engagement, commitment, and accountability of all parties towards a common cause. Most integrations fail by not taking these reasons into consideration.

Based on integration efforts found in the areas of Mergers &Acquisitions, Corporate Turnaround, Investment Acceptance, and Cultural Change activities, we have observed:

* Most still do not work.

"…the most frequent and serious problem merging institutions encountered was unexpected difficulty in integrating the people" - Wall Street Journal, January 2002. Without a well planned integration strategy that allows the people involved to find reason to want to belong, peak performance with even the best of integration plans will not be achieved.

* Do you care? Who should care?

Do you care that the integration necessary following these activities is set up for success? Some are happy with closing the deal and moving on, others believe (at least to some degree) that they should have some responsibility to see integration through to success. In order to answer this, we get to take a look at the purpose of our own organizations – do you care? Should we care?

* Integration planning begins with the end in mind.

A full integration plan has a beginning, an end, and a strategy to fill in the gap. This is where we come in. However, in companies that choose to do this themselves, this gap analysis is currently done when “we come in, meet your people, and prepare a plan”. This is obviously not working for the companies going it alone. Without a proper diagnosis or assessment, even the best of prescriptions will fail. Most of the integrations that we have observed fail due to lack of planning or putting the wrong plan in place.

* Assessing and integrating assets and resources is key.

We have seen great success stories in integrating manufacturing plants, financial processes, IT systems, etc. However, who runs these systems and processes? Are people an asset or an expense? If they are an expense, treat them as such in your integration plan. If they are an asset, treat them as you do other assets. We coach you to consider what the asset is worth, which assets are necessary to reach implementation goals, and what is the regular maintenance necessary to keep the value of the asset.

* Slow down to speed up.

Our observations show that most integrations that fail begin without a formalized way of planning, benchmarking, and measuring the system. These integrations usually take 3-5 years to complete (one way or another). Our observations are that successful integrations have 6 – 12 month plans, monthly benchmarks, and true measures of success. The biggest difference is that successful integrations start slow. This allows people to catch up and inherently finish quicker.

2007 will be a year with a large amount of integration. As the saying goes, “If you keep doing what you have been doing, you will keep getting what you have been getting.” We continually ask those involved in M&A, Corporate Turnaround, Investment, and Change Management functions : Who is responsible for causing this change?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Power of Assessing Your People: A Success Story

We wanted to share a short, POWERFUL success story:

We started using these Integration Assessments (also known as Cultural or Change Readiness assessments) because often times companies would come to us and not have a CLEAR understanding of what exactly is going on within their own company.
Company X came to us and said they needed work on their “communication” and “leadership”. Now, we could have done a 2-day seminar which would have cost the company between $15-$20k. Instead, we had the company participate in our Integration Assessment. The results were staggering! Rather than showing that communication was an “area for improvement”, the results actually showed that communication was a STRENGTH in the organization. The problems in communication the owner sensed were a SYMPTOM, not the CAUSE.
What the assessment DID show was that the infrastructure of the organization had become so muddied, nobody knew who to communicate WITH. The result was that by spending roughly $10k on the assessment, they were able to not only assess the REAL situation (lack of clearly defined infrastructure) but they were also able to assess other areas in the organization at the same time. The company went on to rework the infrastructure of the organization. This enabled the leadership to be able to act more efficiently and the lines of communication were instantly opened.
I’ll take $10k over $15-$20k any day to elicit results like this! I’ve included a link to our website. You can look under the “Integration” tab to find out more about the Integration Assessment tool.
We encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences with us by commenting on this post.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What Venture Capitalists are Really Thinking...

Seth Godin has done it again. His viewpoints on what he calls a "cottage industry" are very interesting. For any company that is out there looking for capital for their business, take some time to read the following blog entry on Seth's blog.
As he states, VC's like to invest in areas they've already invested in. They call them "platform companies". How do you figure out if you fit into one of these platforms with your company?

The realistic entrepreneur's guide to venture capital

Optimism is a key to success, but it doesn't necessarily work so well when it comes to VC. Because this is a cottage industry with thousands of players, all with different objectives, it's very easy to keep knocking on doors, just waiting to find the right match. It's also easy to spend a year or more adjusting your business to what each VC asks for ("bring me the broomstick of the wicked witch!" while you could have been out there building a real organization.)...


The Benefits of Knowing – The Costs of Not Knowing

The following is a great article regarding Integration and Change Management assessments.

Strategic planning is very hard work … which is why only companies that commit to a rigorous program benefit from it. A well organized planning process begins with a focused assessment. Done correctly, this process can identify high impact areas where a company is delivering low performance. If not identified and corrected, low performance can quickly bleed away a company’s future...


Friday, March 16, 2007

M&A Surge to Continue in '07

Here is a great article on the predicted "surge" of M & A activity for '07.

M&A Surge to Continue in '07
The dealmakers behind mergers and buyouts predict the pace of transactions will increase for the next six months.
Sarah Johnson,
January 10, 2007

New Year's Day may have come and gone, but dealmakers would be wise to restock their champagne cellars right away. The high levels of merger-and-acquisition activity that characterized 2006 will likely continue, even grow, through the first half of this year, according to the Association for Corporate Growth. And the main drivers of the deals — private equity firms — will continue to be big players, the member association predicts....


Thursday, March 15, 2007

People become who they might be when they let go of who they are.

I’m creating a whole new program based on that statement. We might complain that our bosses, family, friends etc. put up roadblocks to our success --- whoever and whatever we can find to blame for our setbacks --- but the bottom line is we hold ourselves back more than all the other people, circumstances and strokes of fate put together. If you get over yourself, then you can let go over who you are at least enough to open your mind to possibility. Everyone in this world knows something you don’t know about something. Until you let go and open your mind, you’ll never know what that something is. Look at what you’re missing out on...


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hiring Tips

In our experience, we have found the following recruiting and interviewing tips proven to be true…

Don’t go to the grocery store hungry

You’ll end up desperate for the quickest meal that will fill you up. Always be recruiting. Long courtships make for great marriages. “Great Salespeople Aren’t Born, They’re Hired” by Joe Miller has this and other great recruiting and interviewing tips that can be used or converted for any position.

Brand yourself as the “employer of choice”

Understand who you are now, and who you want to be. Brand and market yourself as the “employer of choice” for candidates who will get you to where you want to be, rather than more of what you already have. Create a brand and marketing pitch towards being that employer that these types of people will want to work for. Be careful of hiring your competitors “best employee”. This rarely leads to a good “fit”. Hire who you need rather than who’s easily available.

Celebrate diversity

Assessments are varied and valuable as part of the recruiting process. Be careful in hiring everyone with the same behavior, communication style, etc. Groups of like-minded, robotic, “yes” people do not tend to be successful. Keep in mind that assessments show a person’s tendencies. Test the results to understand how these tendencies show up for each individual.

Spend less time with the resume

It is extremely time consuming to look over and check the validity of a candidate’s resume. Your first priority should be to talk to the candidate as soon as possible. Set up initial phone calls with a list of five questions and set a time frame of 15 – 30 minutes for this conversation. Don’t waste your time looking at a list of 40 e-mails and picking 5 of the first 20 when the best candidate is number 33.

Spend less time selling them and more time qualifying/disqualifying them

Initially, you should be asking questions, not telling them all the great things about you and your company. Save the sales job for the job offer meeting.

Past behaviors generally dictate future actions

Get them to tell you a specific (not general) example of what they did in a situation similar to what you expect them to do. Choose candidates that have successes when behaving in the financial, managerial, communication, behavioral style that will get your company to that next level.

Rather than asking, get them to show you

It is fun and easy to set up exercises to test behaviors and skill sets. Go for actual results not stories, explanations, excuses, etc.