Essential Tips for Navigating Fundamental Corporate Change

March 4, 2016 | Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. | HCI
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As major corporate transactions go — the larger and more complex the undertaking, the thornier it can be to navigate. 

If you've ever been on the front lines (or thick in the weeds, for that matter) of a merger, acquisition, divestiture, dissolution, liquidation or similar pursuit, you're probably all too familiar with the labyrinthine process. As a corporate attorney and advisor to corporate CEOs, I am keenly aware of how the endeavors work. The workload can feel colossal, and deadlines, unmanageable. The stress? Completely overwhelming. In fact, what may have begun as a straightforward, metered venture, can quickly morph into a protracted war of attrition.

But, there are — more often than not — compelling reasons why such change is necessary. When fundamental corporate change comes down the pike, will you be ready? If in doubt, consider the following tips for managing extraordinary change in the corporate environment.

1. Begin with the end in mind

Having a clear understanding of your destination is the best way to begin any challenging process. This is especially true of fundamental corporate change, where the stakes are always high and there is significant complexity involved. Don’t wait until the frenzy begins to determine an appropriate pace or what the essential outcomes should be. Avoid reactive strategies. Take a hard look — early on — at precisely what you want to achieve. Pay close attention to key variables that impact overall results, such as deadlines, stakeholders and budget. Additionally, evaluate best- as well as worst-case scenarios, which will help you develop a better global strategy for success.

2. Accept and prepare for it

No matter how hard you try, you can't wish change away, especially at this level. Embrace it. It’s coming whether you like it or not. Agonizing merely delays the inevitable and induces stress. Preparation is your next line of defense. The onslaught of complex legal, financial and administrative matters can take a toll. Avoid this result by being proactive. Identify, in advance, the specific strategies and resources (experts, documentation, etc.) you will need to effectively navigate the process. Plug them in with confidence when the proper time comes. 

Additionally, you will need to:

  • Focus on change management
  • Establish a tactical framework for decision-making
  • Address cultural shifts/integration
  • Craft a solid communication strategy
  • Formulate clear goals for the transaction
  • Remain open and adaptable to new approaches

3. Brace your people  

Properly handling this component is critical. Right beneath the surface of any change lay all sorts of speculation. Fear and doubt are familiar bedfellows for employees who wonder what change will look and feel like. From the very beginning, they’ll want to know exactly how they will be affected. Be clear on how policies, pay, resources, duties or benefits might be altered. Be candid, no matter how difficult to swallow. Additionally, elicit feedback. This is an important opportunity to learn, gather information and gauge the potential impact of the change. Solicit ideas that will help people to navigate the process more seamlessly.

Whether or not you suspect big changes are coming, being prepared with a few key strategies for success can help you embrace and navigate them with confidence.