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White Paper

How to present the results of M&A cultural assessments to stakeholders

Findings from the Willis Towers Watson M&A Culture Group

Mergers and Acquisitions
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By Jim McKay and Kenneth Kuk | December 7, 2020

Advanced acquirers embed culture work in the M&A process and customize their approach for each deal and their findings for each stakeholder group.

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About the series

The intent of the series, The M&A cultural practices of advanced acquirers, is to share the current state of leading practices in cultural work, specifically and only for the M&A situation. To view the white papers in this series refer to the series page or the "also in the series" list.

This paper is the third in a series about advanced M&A cultural practices. It is based on the findings from a unique and highly experienced group of M&A practitioners that meet on a regular basis with Willis Towers Watson to share and discuss their views on this area. Each firm’s participants are drawn from its in-house M&A functions, representing corporate development, business development or corporate strategy (the term varies based on each firm’s internal definition of the role) and its human resources M&A group. Throughout the series, the content reflects the discussions within the group and not the sole practices of any one firm.

The distinguishing feature about the group that will also help readers understand the content better is that cultural investigations are an accepted part of their M&A process. 

Our first paper in the “M&A cultural practices of advanced acquirers” series showed how M&A practitioners brought structure and discipline to cultural discussions through capturing in one place the parts of culture that have the greatest impact on a transaction (the culture framework developed in the first article). The second paper covered how they created the business rationale for incorporating culture as part of their approach throughout the deal life cycle. 

This third paper builds on the previous two and shows how M&A practitioners use the cultural framework in deals. Specifically, we’ll look at the three early phases in the life cycle: 

  • Preparation
  • Due diligence
  • Integration planning

The reason we’re reviewing the early stages is that these firms realized in their post-deal reviews that most post-merger cultural problems were entirely predictable, with many of the same issues coming up repeatedly, and that the root causes could be traced back to decisions made, or not made, early in the deal life cycle. 

We’ll show examples of how they report the results of their cultural work in their leadership reviews and how they break up the components of the framework into their most relevant parts based on the specifics of the examples. And we’ll also provide one firm’s commentary on how it approaches culture if little work was able to be done before the deal is announced. 

As is customary throughout the series, we feature quotes and examples drawn from members of the M&A cultural group. Where necessary, the quotes and comments are edited for readability and to protect the confidentiality of the contributing company. 

Also noted throughout the series, each firm has its own company-specific framework and different ways of describing the work it does in “culture,” and so the terms “cultural work,” “assessments,” “investigations” and “organizational assessments” (the term several use for their cultural work) are used interchangeably. Likewise, each firm has different ways it sets up the team to address culture. The important point being that each firm has an organized and disciplined approach to the work and a clear rationale for that work.

Download the white paper to learn more about how M&A practitioners use the cultural framework in deals in the early phases of the deal life cycle. Our experts delve into: 

  • Chapter 1: The practical realities of conducting cultural investigations in the early phases of a deal
  • Chapter 2:
    • Phase 1: Preparation, developing a viewpoint and big challenges in M&A deals
    • Phase 2: Testing the viewpoint and assumptions and preparing for integration
    • Phase 3: Transition into integration planning and the breakup of the framework
  • Chapter 3: Examples of leadership presentations in M&A cultural reviews
  • Chapter 4: Creating and developing the M&A culture team
  • Summary and conclusion
Authors

Managing Director, North American M&A Human Capital and Benefits Leader

Senior Director, Talent and Rewards (Washington, D.C.)

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