Dealmakers Planning for a Successful Merger or Acquisition: Aligning the Management Group (Part 2)

Aligning the Management Team

Last month In MidMarket Talk, we dealt with Dealmakers Planning for a Successful Merger or Acquisition: Aligning the Management Group (Part 1).  We also proposed the idea that if Dealmakers are true advisors, they need to advise their client on the criticality of aligning the Management Group.  We focused on how to facilitate the All Managers Session and now will show what to do with what comes out of the sessions for management to act upon for the accomplishment of the strategic intent of the merger or acquisition.  


As promised, we will discuss what happens after the All Managers Sessions regarding the values and practices, accountabilities, communicating the results of the sessions, developing feedback surveys to gauge perceptions of the manager’s behavior in the new way and creating development plans for staff and action plans for the managers. 


Remember, too, that the Management Group includes those ranging from senior management to first-line supervisors and this group is the driving force for organizational behavior. As we move further into Phase IX of the Roadmap or integration for the first year, aligning the Management Group is a critical component of moving forward. 


As described last month, the Management Group must come to absolute “clarity on the current business situation, mission, vision, strategy, and intended cultural values of the new organization. Included within this component is the clear articulation of the consequences of not achieving full integration and implementation of the new organization’s business plan. This plan needs to include both consequences for the organization and consequences individually for the managers attending the session.” (Carleton & Lineberry, 2004, p. 100)


The other critical activity was to take the espoused values identified by the Executive Group and identify behavioral practices that represent those values. Additionally, the Management Group also agreed on the behaviors that they will not only support and demonstrate daily but also commit to be held accountable to them. 


“During this work session, it is appropriate and important to allow the group to suggest additional values that they may feel that the Executive Group overlooked and what they feel are vital to the organization. Should they wish to add a value, the managers can make their case to the members of the Executive Group in attendance, who will decide whether or not it should be included. (Carleton & Lineberry, 2004, p.103)


Last month we shared a list of values and practices coming from a recently facilitated work session with an Executive Team and a Management Group. The list included the eight values of Teamwork, Partnering, Performance Management, Trust, Respect, Accountability, Integrity and Urgency. The Management Group came up with seven or eight behavior practices representing each of the values. The other consideration, as noted, was that the Management Group agreed to be held accountable to those practices. Changing management behavior to move the organization forward is tantamount to successful integration.


Let us review just three of the eight values with accompanying practices here. 


Value Anchors and Practices for the New Company 


  1. Behaves as though expecting others to do things right
  2. Behaves in a way that builds and maintains trust
  3. Gives staff a clear-cut decision when they need one
  4. Is consistent in the priorities communicated to others
  5. Informs others as soon as it is apparent that a deadline will be missed
  6. Faces, rather than appearing to “hide” from difficult or unpleasant truth
  7. Keeps facts and interpretations separate by clearly identifying what is fact and what is inference
  8. “Goes to bat” for his/her work team with higher management.


  1. Makes others know that they are free to question and disagree
  2. Confronts issues openly and honestly, as they arise
  3. Encourages open discussion of issues and concerns
  4. Treats requests to change plans or ground rules with an open mind
  5. Gathers sufficient information about needs and priorities of others before evaluating problems and issues
  6. Pays close attention to staff when they are talking assuring staff are both heard and understood
  7. Operates on the assumption that individuals/groups that differ with his/her opinions have legitimate and logical reasons for their views


  1. Takes personal responsibility for making wise use of resources – people, time, money, etc.
  2. Acts in a way that lets people know where you stand
  3. Demonstrates personal commitment and persistence toward achieving the goals of the group
  4. Behaves in a way that communicates high personal standards of performance
  5. Willing to take a firm stand when necessary
  6. Ensures that things are done well, not just “to specifications”
  7. Supports positions he/she believes in even if they are not popular ones

In reviewing this list, the conclusion is that each of the behavioral practices supporting each value can be observed and is, therefore, measurable. Measurement of these practices is the underpinning or foundation of management accountability. Perhaps each of us knows intellectually what respect, trust and integrity might mean but these practices help people to know what to look for in their managers’ and supervisors’ daily actions or behavior. 

Converting a List of Practices into a 360° Survey Instrument for the New Management Group

With some very minor tweaking, each of the behavioral statements created by the Management Group is placed into a survey instrument to be administered internally or externally. There are caveats for either. The following survey contains several facets worth noting: 1) a 7-point Likert scale; 2) a 3-point criticality scale; and 3) reporting from four sources; hence, 360° feedback. A sample portion of the full survey follows:

Sample Survey

Our approach is quite simple.  Since we have the values and practices for the management group and since we have their individual and collective commitment to be accountable to them, all we need to do is:

  1. Design the survey instrument (like the sample described above)
  2. Develop a process by which employees in the integrated company complete the instrument on their supervisor or manager
  3. Collect the surveys (The issue here is one of guaranteed anonymity of respondents. Those completing the survey [reports and peers] will not want their names associated with their ratings no matter how positive they may be.)
  4. Compile the data
  5. Array the data in graph form for ease of understanding
  6. Present the feedback to the managers with appropriate information and support
  7. Work with those managers to develop their action plans around the data they received
  8. Build the capability for the new organization to continue this work internally without outside assistance (knowledge transfer)


Overview of Feedback: Receiving Ipsative Data 

Ipsative Data 

The feedback managers will receive will be in an ipsative format rather than in percentiles. Ipsative merely means that it is referenced to individual scores rather than to group scores of any kind. Percentiles tell managers how they compare to some generic average of a given group. Using an example from the tennis world, percentiles tell tennis players where they are ranked or seeded for a given tournament. Ipsative data describes strengths and weaknesses for an individual’s "level of play." 


Again, using a tennis example, ipsative data tells a player that he or she may have a weak backhand and a strong serve. One could have ipsative data identical to Roger Federer or Serena Williams that would show that for your relative "levels of play" you should each work on your backhands and try to take advantage of situations where you can use your strong serves. The ipsative data provides better information on how to improve your game. Everyone, even the Federer’s or the Williams’s, can improve their game. 


The same is true for managers. Everyone, even the best managers, can improve. Ipsative data can provide them with information to help them determine where they need to improve and what strengths should be their foundations and mainstays. 


Ipsative Data Allows for Variety of Context 

Another advantage of ipsative data is that it allows for a wide variety of contexts. While percentiles assume that there is one ideal way to manage to which all managers should aspire, ipsative data allows for the variety of environments within which managers manage. Managers of twenty-year veteran PhD. research scientists should manage them differently than managers of clerical data entry clerks with high school diplomas who have been with the company only six months. Although both managers will be dealing with the same or similar issues such as autonomy, delegation, accountability, decision-making, and risk-taking for example, they will handle those issues very differently with the two groups. In the same way the process that the group is going through will alter what the manager should be doing. A manager who is downsizing an organization should be behaving very differently than one who is growing the organization. 


Format of Data 

Managers will receive their average scores. This is the average of all items from all reports in a single group. A peer average will reflect all items as reported by all peers. A subordinate average will reflect all items as reported by all subordinates. These scores may be very similar, or they may be quite different. The relationship with peers is different from the relationship with subordinates and a manager probably should be behaving somewhat differently with the two groups. 


A Case Study (One specific client organization having its top managers attend a leadership development program):

You will receive five pages of feedback data over the next five days; they will be directly tied to your company’s values. Each of the pages will provide a graphic representation of how both your peers and your subordinates rate each of the items defining that value in relation to your overall average. You will begin to see how peers and subordinates see your strengths and weaknesses. You will all have both strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes a practice will be viewed as a strength by one group and a weakness by another. This will likely be due to the difference in the relationships with each group. For example, if you frequently give strong direction regarding how you want a task completed. Subordinates may view this as a strength while your Peers may view it as a weakness. 


The graphs will depict how many standard deviations away from your overall averages each item was rated by each group. We show a sample graph on the next page. This is not close to the quality of the graphs we typically use. 


**** Special Note: This sample only shows reporting from peers and direct reports whereas in a full 360° survey, the “boss” (manager) and self are represented as well. Also, this sample is not in color as we usually present them. 

All-Managers Sessions: Communicating Results of the All-Managers Sessions

At the conclusion of the All-Managers Work Session, the CEO reminds everyone that the agreed upon “management practices will be the way all are expected to manage going forward and that there will be a multi-rater 360-degree feedback system put in place to let each manager know how he or she is doing on demonstrating these practices on the job, as perceived, at the minimum by their direct report, peers and boss.” (Carleton & Lineberry, 2004, p. 103)


The managers hold an open discussion and discuss the results of the meeting, any additional concerns they may have and then decide on a process to communicate those results of the work session and clarify what members of the new organization might expect from their managers and supervisors. Clarity about the values and accompanying management practices should be the focus of the communication. It is also critical to let the rest of the organization know their role in the upcoming survey. 


Next? Tiger Teams

Following the All-Managers Work Sessions there could be several infrastructural issues that need investigation and resolution. These may have surfaced anytime during the Cultural Due Diligence process, the Executive Group Issues-Based Teambuilding or from the All-Managers Work Session. (Carleton & Lineberry, 2004, p. 104) 

By far, the strongest and most effective way we know to deal with and redesign infrastructure issues (systems, processes, policies, procedures) is by short-term and highly focused “Tiger Teams” or more appropriately called task teams made up of management and staff who are routinely involved with the infrastructure elements being reviewed. The concept of tiger teams goes back decades (to the mid-1960s). 

These task teams are ad hoc teams usually comprised of three to seven people and designed to engage in a specific task for a specific timeframe.  Teams typically are set up as half time or full-time assignments for the duration of the team’s project.  Project duration is usually set as three to six weeks and then they disband.  During this time, the teams meet regularly with a coach (internal or external) for support and guidance.  The projects are highly focused and designed to be achievable within the given timeframe.

Task teams focus on high priority issues directly tied to aligning the infrastructure with the desired strategy and culture.  They focus on removing barriers to change, making appropriate behaviors easier, and eliminating inappropriate behaviors through targeted changes in the infrastructure.  Management charges the task teams with delivering well thought out and workable solution alternatives and recommendations for immediate action.

Upon completion of their assigned task, teams present their results and/or recommendations to a senior management group for immediate response.

The Tiger Team activity will run for as long as necessary. This needs to be closely managed, however, as to accomplish the task in a timely fashion and not go beyond the original scope. As soon as one team is finished with their project, another may form to pick up where they left off, or to engage in a very different task.  In this manner, many people can be engaged in the reworking of “how we work,” and that alone creates much commitment to the organizational change. 


The Caveat 

Despite the obvious upside to engaging people in a process to make improvements for the betterment of the organization, there are some appropriate warnings that we need to provide.


Proper care and nurturing must be given to any effort involving people in such activities as task teams. Properly handled and supported, task teams can accomplish a great deal in improving the organization’s processes. Team members who engage themselves in the process and make the commitment to working on these issues must know that they are contributing and that the organization (management) appreciates their contributions. (Carleton & Craig, 2014)


Individual Action Plans, Follow-Up Sessions and Developmental Streams

After the All-Managers Work Sessions each manager must begin his or her own development activities as well as planning for their direct reports’ development. An expansive review of the manager’s area of responsibility should be taken and a plan developed.


The individual manager should review the following multiple developmental streams: 

  1. The needs, skills, current performance, and track record of each of his or her direct reports;
  2. The needs, interests, and track record of peers with who he or she regularly interacts in accomplishing business responsibilities;
  3. The needs, interests and track record of each of the business units or areas for which he or she is responsible or needs to interact with in the accomplishment of business responsibilities, including the units that provide work as well as the units or customers who receive the work products;
  4. The needs, interests, demands, and expectations of his or her own boss; and
  5. His or her personal perception of how he or she is doing in carrying out management and leadership duties. (Carleton & Lineberry, 2004, p. 107)


As Carleton and Lineberry (2004, p. 107) point out, it is imperative that each manager also reviews “his or her own personal drivers, interests and motivations.” What brought the manager to the original organization has changed, likely, with the creation of the new organization. Managers and supervisors need to figure out what they need to be doing to support the business objectives of the newly formed organization following the merger or acquisition. They also need to decide if the new organization is still a fit for them or should they “opt-out if it no longer fits.” (Carleton & Lineberry, 2004, p. 108)


As far as Individual Action Planning, Vector Group developed an ACTION PLANNING GUIDE: A Manager’s Guide to Reflection, Review and Planning Personal Development years ago that we’ve used in a variety of situations with clients internationally. Naturally, it is too expansive to publish here (runs about 25 pages) but we can send you a copy by request. Just email and let us know your interests. 


This generic Action Planning Guide is easily customizable to any client need. The design of this Guide provides a manager with means to gain insight into his or her own behavior typically based on a 360° feedback process coupled with a management / leadership development program. Formatting is easily changed to allow a simple, straightforward and useful planning guide for immediately acting in the new organization.      


With just a few brief words about Follow-Up Sessions, these are critical, too. There should be a series of monthly follow-up sessions company-wide to gauge how changes are taking place and make any new announcement of information, as needed, as well as follow-up sessions scheduled and run on a team basis. This refers to those engaged in specific teams following the receipt of feedback and initial planning. The should be teams of five to seven managers. These become “ongoing support groups for individual change.” (Carleton & Lineberry, 2004, p. 109)

It is extremely difficult for any manager to make commitments to particular actions and then consistently fail when he or she is making those commitments before a group of peers who are making similar commitments peer pressure is for more effective method to get follow-through than are external controls or pressure—and the method ore closely reflect the natural establishment and maintenance of desired cultural norms in organizations. We have found that this self-monitoring and correction phenomenon is at the heart of successful organizational cultures. (Carleton & Lineberry, 2004, p. 110)


Next month we will discuss what happens after the All-Managers Sessions regarding the alignment and integration of the Total Organization.  


Next month:  Dealmakers Planning for a Successful Merger or Acquisition: Aligning the Rest of the Total Organization 



Carleton, J. Robert and Lineberry, Claude S., “Aligning the Management Group,” Achieving Post-Merger Success: A Stakeholder’s Guide to Cultural Due Diligence, Assessment and Integration, Pfeiffer, John Wiley & Sons, 2004, pp. 99 -110.


Carleton, J. Robert & Craig, Gary W., M&A Roadmap for Success, Unpublished Working Paper, ©2011, 2013, 2017. 


Carleton, J. Robert & Craig, Gary W., Process Tool: “Tiger Teams:” Description, Function, Some Guidelines and a Caveat, Unpublished Process Paper, 2014.


ACTION PLANNING GUIDE: A Manager’s Guide to Reflection, Review and Planning Personal Development. Working Tool, ©Vector Group, Inc., 1991, 1999, 2012. 



©Vector Group, Inc., 2018

Gary W. Craig is Managing Partner and COO the Americas and Asia for Vector Group, Inc. You may reach him at  Vector Group is a global consulting firm specializing in systematic and systemic organizational diagnosis and interventions to ensure that corporate strategy, culture, and infrastructure are aligned to achieve breakthrough success. The firm’s focus is on Cultural Due Diligence (CDD) and Post-Merger or Post-Acquisition Integration. Vector Group, Inc. pioneered the concept of CDD. For more information, you may visit our website at or call us at (800) 566-0877.

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