I will defer to the Directors, Investment Bankers and Lawyers to offer up the subtle differences between "a Merger" and "an Acquisition" as it seems there is always someone in the equation who was doing the "acquiring". Semantics aside, there is always an integration of one organization into another... what used to be two, is now one.
Unless you are part of the aforementioned group, more often than not you will find out about the "merger and/or acquisition" through a press release, a company wide email or if you are really lucky, get called into someone's office and given a heads up 30 minutes before "something is about to go down". No one integration is ever the same in my experience; all having different rules of engagement and scenarios with no standardized check list to help get you through it.
At the very most, I was able to come up with three guiding principles over the years that have served me well.
There will be CHANGE, and there will be OPPORTUNITY.
This is a truism (and quite possibly a universal law) that may or may not be to your benefit, advantage or convenience when it comes your way; you may be able to influence it or even champion it, but in the end, you will have to manage it no matter where it takes you. I was introduced to the book "Who moved my Cheese by Spencer Johnson" many years ago during my first integration; I encourage everyone to read it at least once. It is an excellent book on managing change.
You will hear the phrase, "Business as usual" to be sure and this is a very true statement; it does carry the presumption that everyone internally understands that there is an accelerated need to manage through transition and that any subsequent changes don't negatively impact the customer experience. From an external perspective it needs to be business as usual, but do not assume that applies internally.
It's wasted energy trying to rationalize that change will not touch you, and more important to focus your energy on how to effectively manage through any change and opportunity that will present itself. If you are thinking, "My function is too important to be impacted", or "We bought them so they will have to do what we do", or "We are doing really well so there this no way they will change how we do things", or the countless other ways we rationalize that things will not change... you need to stop and refocus your thinking.
CHANGE and OPPORTUNITY are coming.
Synergy, restructuring and unfortunately good people will leave.
A Merger and/or Acquisition poses the question, "How can the new organization be run more efficiently to reduce costs and increase revenue?".*
- Revenue synergy (more revenue as a result of the merger and/or acquisition)
- Cost synergy (cost savings as a result of the merger and/or acquisition)
This is the reality of business... reduce duplication and inefficiency to increase profits. This is the birthplace of all that change, the resulting restructuring, rationalization of two departments into one, and the reduction in duplication of resources.
More often than not, restructuring and the search for synergies is not an overnight event. You will be part of the process as you manage "business as usual" and directly or indirectly restructure for the future. Like it or not, inevitably good people will leave... either out of the organization or to a new opportunity within the new organization.
No matter how much change there is, an organization doesn't want to lose good people because there is just so much work to do... be open to where restructuring and opportunity may ask you to go.
In the end, all you have is your Leadership and your Character.
The question you have to ask yourself is what does "Leadership and Character" mean to you and what will it look like as you work through the dynamic and difficult times that are often part of any Merger and/or Acquisition. You represent yourself during these times... no one else.
And remember people are watching, that they are also managing through the same change, and they have most likely been asked to make difficult decisions.
My recent merger and/or acquisition experience ended up having me saying goodbye to a company after twenty-two years... on good terms, with a smile, a tear, and a handshake. What an amazing ride to be sure. I made a point of passing on these guiding principles before I left to anyone who would listen. Alas, that wasn't as many as I had hoped.
* I would suggest a business interested in staying modern and viable always needs to be asking "How can the new organization be run more efficiently to reduce costs and increase revenue?"