While technicalities and financials dominate the due diligence process in mergers and acquisitions (M&As), attention to the psychological aspect can be a game-changer. Human capital serves as the lifeblood of an organization, turning the spotlight on ‘psychological due diligence,’ an assessment of the human fabric binding a business.
The Underrated Power of Psychological Due Diligence
M&As invariably usher in change, an aspect often feared by employees. Change brings uncertainty, impacts morale and productivity, and can lead to skill loss if key employees decide to leave. Hence, psychological due diligence zooms into the place where companies truly reside — in the hearts and minds of the people who live and breathe life into them every day.
Crafting People-centric Questions: Looking Beyond the Facts
The traditional due diligence equipped with spreadsheets and data analysis fails to capture the human element. Asking people-centric questions can help uncover the deeper, often unseen aspects of an organization’s culture, leadership style, and employee morale.
Here are critical areas where psychological due diligence offers key insights:
- Organizational Culture: Understanding the prevailing culture (the unspoken rules, the values, the ways of working) can point towards potential cultural clashes post-merger, which are common reasons for M&A failures.
- Leadership Style: Investigating the leaders’ style can clarify how decisions are made, how performance is evaluated, and how open the company is to changes. This is crucial information to have during an integration process.
- Employee Engagement and Satisfaction: Gauging these can provide insights into productivity, loyalty, and potential talent risks. Higher levels of engagement typically correlate with better business outcomes.
Examples of People-centric Questions
While the specifics will vary based on the companies involved, here are examples of Due Diligence Questions for M&A to ask:
- Can you describe the corporate culture here?
- How are decisions made in the company?
- How does the organization handle conflict or disagreements?
- Can you describe the leadership style within the organization?
- How are employees rewarded and recognized?
- What would you change about the organization if you could?
Remember, the aim is to understand the human side of the business in all its complexity, not merely to check boxes off a list.
A Value-adding Exercise
Psychological due diligence adds value to the M&A process by:
- Identifying potential people-related risks before it’s too late.
- Gaining insight into the collective mindset within the organization.
- Equipping the integration team with knowledge to manage people transition effectively.
- Aiding in decision-making regarding leadership continuity.
- Providing pointers for creating a harmonious, fused culture post-merger.
Post-Merger Integration: The People Perspective
Psychological due diligence doesn’t stop at asking questions. It extends to leveraging those insights during the integration process. This involves leadership continuity, transparent communication about changes, and building a unified culture that brings out the best in both entities.
Making Human Capital Count
In conclusion, M&As are not conducted between balance sheets and income statements but between collections of human beings with emotions, motivations, and ideas.
By performing psychological due diligence, companies can bring the human element into focus, comprehend the cultural fabric, and mitigate people-related risks. After all, businesses may be about the numbers, but the people make those numbers happen.