September 19, 2014

A leadership expert’s tips on leading change

When two companies merge and combine their respective employee rosters, special attention must be paid to guiding staff through the transition effectively. This can be a delicate and involved process.

After conducting extensive research, Dr. John Kotter of Kotter International formulated an 8-Step Process for Leading Change. His recommendations, which are easily applicable to technology mergers and acquisitions, are summarized below.

  1. A sense of urgency is crucial to inspiring employees. Additionally, Kotter recommends encouraging team members new and old to bring their life experiences to the table to enrich and enliven the operations of your newly merged business.
  2. Establish a decision-making team and foster a sense of trust between team members. The qualities that Kotter recommends for this team, which he calls a "Guiding Coalition," include expertise that covers differing points of view, credibility and leadership.
  3. Define a vision for the company's future. The six attributes a vision should have, says Kotter, are clarity, long-term appeal, feasibility, focus, adaptability and communicability.
  4. Encourage employees to adopt the vision as their own. To this end, the language should be clear, understandable and meaningful to all. Inviting people to participate in shaping this vision is also a powerful tool.
  5. Remove barriers. This means ensuring that managers are not unconsciously discouraging change. This may occur when previous ways of operating become ingrained. "Easy solutions to this problem don't exist," says Kotter. "Typically, the best solution is honest dialogue."
  6. Build an immediate "short-term win" into the plan to prove cynics wrong and boost optimism among employees and management.
  7. Don't get complacent. Continue to transform the business and "drive the change deeper into the organization," Kotter advises. Ensure that these changes align with the vision you've worked so hard to construct.
  8. Make sure the new culture is ingrained by demonstrating that it has been successful.

If you're looking to sell or acquire a business, consult with an M&A advisor to ensure you've considered every angle.