Play #6 - Integrated Kickoff

Holding a Kickoff for Integration

Given the greater number of personnel typically involved in integration, holding a project-wide kickoff meeting is not a particularly effective means of encouraging alignment. In general, it makes the most sense for each individual team to hold its own small kickoff.

The deal team holds the first of these kickoff meetings, to discuss strategic alignment, establish workflow and assign initial tasks, and ensure that each team member has the resources they need to assist subteams.

Traditionally, the integration process is conducted by functional — that is, siloed — teams, which are aligned at the higher levels by the IMO. Since the deal team consists of functional experts covering the breadth of the new asset, its members can serve as the leads of the relevant functional teams. The traditional functional-driven workstreams limits information shared between teams, and the overlap in workstreams can result in duplicate requests and efforts with the target company. This can be one of the most frustrating aspects of the process for a company being integrated.

Completing the integration process using cross-functional, goal-oriented teams is an innovative new strategy employed by some companies in the tech industry. In this approach, the IMO establishes a number of high-level tasks that must be completed in order to close out the integration effort. The IMO then assembles small, cross-functional teams containing all the personnel required to complete that task. The IMO coordinates these teams like they would traditional functional teams.

Whichever strategy your team follows, once the IMO is set up and the deal team aligned, the members of the team can assemble their subteams and consequently lead project kickoffs. Each subteam lead should begin by outlining to their team the nature of the new asset, the ultimate goals of the M&A initiative, and the strategy the IMO has developed to realize those goals. The subteam leaders should then define the role of their team in relation to the project, describe the initial tasks to be addressed by the subteam, and present a preliminary checklist.

Rarely does every subteam begin its process on day one. High-level cross-functional dependencies mean that oftentimes certain teams need to complete their initial tasks before other teams are able to begin their work. The deal team is responsible for effectively timing the entry of different teams into the integration project. The overall integration project involves different teams at different stages, and even the composition of individual teams often changes over time as the teams complete tasks. Agile facilitates flexibility and fluidity in team configuration in order to maximize productivity and the efficient use of team resources.

Assuming that the deal team was assembled early on during diligence, the team already has a well-established workflow. The subteams do not have this advantage. The subteams’ process method can either be defined by the IMO and enforced by the lead or determined by the team itself. Operating according to the same process and tools allows teams to maximize Agile values like cross-functional visibility and collaboration. Compelling functional teams to deviate from their established workflow too radically, however, is likely to cause resentment and resistance, ultimately undermining any desired workflow improvements. One of the great advantages of employing goal-oriented teams is that they are both temporary and cross-functional — however, this does mean that the teams will need to establish a new process in order to operate. The most sensible process for such teams to adopt is that used by the deal team.

Key Takeaways:

Value Proposition: holding a big kickoff meeting will maximize transparency and engagement for the entire project team

How to put it in play:

  1. Include all project contributors and stakeholders/sponsors
  2. Discuss process guidelines and expectations
  3. Share key objectives and milestones

Anti-patterns to avoid:

  1. Focusing excessively on specific tasks
  2. Solving problems that are not impactful to the overall project
  3. Ignoring known risks or issues