A View from the Trenches - M&A: Project Management on Steroids


A View from the Trenches
By Jack Prouty, President of the M&A Leadership Council

In my 30-plus years of working on mergers and acquisitions, both in corporate management and as a management consultant, I have observed two conflicting facts:

1. Project management is not a core competency in most organizations.
2. Effective project/program management is a critical success factor for effective M&A integration.

Project Management is Not a Core Competency in Most Organizations

Unless you are doing IT/engineering projects or leading an operational improvement initiative in your company, most business functions do not require project management skills. I started my career working for a large retailer as a business analyst responsible for information systems design and implementation, and later migrated to management consulting. Like most consultants, I was hired by companies to manage a vital business initiative (e.g., IT projects, operational improvement projects, business transformation projects, etc.) since they didn’t have project management as a core competency. Those years of experience, complemented with some formal training, built my expertise in project management. But when I got involved in M&A, I quickly learned that my project management skills were not adequate.

Effective Project Management is a Critical Success Factor in M&A

My introduction to M&A was being pulled into a major acquisition by my company because I owned most of the back-office functions, had some ten years of prior consulting experience and had demonstrated expertise in running complex business improvement projects. It became clear that my past experiences had only given me 60 percent of the capabilities I would need to become effective at planning and executing M&A.

I discovered that to be effective as a leader in M&A, you need to develop skills beyond traditional project management, such as change management and an understanding of both the art and the science of M&A. And since you are working across two organizations, it requires more in-depth analytics and problem-solving tools and methods to manage the increased emotional and political issues of management and staff. Both the scope and the complexities are greater because it affects all functions and all level of both organizations.

At the M&A Leadership Council, we recognize that M&A program/project management is, as our Chairman Jim Jeffries says, “project management on steroids.” As a result, we have developed a The Art of M&A Program Management to equip those responsible for managing M&A. I am not aware of any other company offering this type of “real world” training by subject matter experts. If you have no experience in either project management and M&A, this is not going to make you an overnight expert. It will, however, accelerate your understanding and give you valuable context for managing with your next deal. Along with actual M&A experiences, this will position you to be much more effective in delivering maximum deal value and avoiding pitfalls. For those seeking to get better at M&A project management, please plan to attend The Art of M&A Program Management, May 7-8 in Scottsdale, AZ. You can visit our website at www.macouncil.org or contact April Dumas, Chief Marketing Officer, at [email protected] for more information.