Why navigating PMI is so important

Any post-merger integration project is a critical exercise – in case of failure it can take down entire corporations, or at least their management.

Remember the merger between the US carmaker Chrysler and the German manufacturer of luxury cars, Daimler? Daimler’s CEO, Hans-Jürgen Schrempp, celebrated the 38b DM-deal in 1998. After seven years of merger-struggle, he resigned in 2005. Eckhard Cordes, responsible for Daimler’s strategy, was earmarked as Schrempp’s successor, but left the Corporation after Dieter Zetsche had been nominated new CEO.

The merged business became unmerged again in 2007, and Private Equity firm Cerberus took over Chrysler. McKinsey estimated Schrempp’s damage to run at an unfathomable 74b US$, making this one of the top capital-destroying mergers ever.

The DaimlerChrysler merger of cause has been of gigantic dimension, however, the reasons for its failure are not uncommon at all: Cultural differences, incompatible strategies, management distraction, unclear integration focus – the same drivers letting post-merger integrations of all sizes fail (compare my blog contributions “M&A Pitfalls”).

Navigating PMI defines leaders

Below the line, the way the CEO navigates PMI does not only define his contribution to value creation (be it positive or negative), but it defines him as a leader. Great leaders don’t only understand strategy, but they also nurture the necessary talent and know-how to implement it. Any post-merger integration is part of a critical strategic program, and should be treated as such. That’s why resourcing a PMI program with top people is a – if not the – critical success factor in PMI management (compare: Inside Post-merger Integration (4): Drivers of Success).

Based out of Germany, Diethard Engel is an independent consultant and interim manager, focused on Business Transformation, Post-merger Integration / Carve-out and Executive Finance. He has run multiple post-merger integration/carve-out projects for international businesses.