Getting Stuff Done

A ground-level challenge in mergers & acquisitions, that may escape the eyes of higher-level executives who are watching the stock price, the P&L and other metrics of organizational performance, is something I call getting stuff done.

Ground-level workers in staff and line jobs are good at getting stuff done every day, from answering customer calls to solving operational problems to delivering service. They know their jobs and they have the organizational know-how that their positions require to be able to get what they need so that they can get stuff done.

A big organizational upheaval, like a merger or an acquisition, kicks the stuffing out of people in an organization and imperils their ability to get stuff done. I am going through one of these periods now where I work. My company was sold to another company back late last year.

Here are some of the dimensions of this challenge.

What is my role? Part of getting stuff done is knowing what your job is. When big change happens, roles get fuzzy, or change altogether.

Who do I work for? Before the sale, workers knew who their bosses were, where the direction came from, and where to go to get answers from management.

How do I get what I need? It's not uncommon for the buyer to take immediate steps to terminate employees in the acquired company. In the interest of speed and synergy, key people are ushered out the door without an understanding of the domino effect it sets off. Now workers who remain are unsure how to get stuff done because so-and-so, who used to be in charge of building services, was fired.

One of the lessons for managing large-scale organizational change, that we are learning at my company, is that the ability of workers to get stuff done is directly tied to the success (or failure) of the acquisition.

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