PRINCE2 and M&As: The Runaway Freight Train

As all PRINCE2 practitioners know, one of the key aspects of correctly using the method is to refer back to the Business Case at various stages throughout the Project Life cycle, critically between the various stages, to ensure that the project is still a good idea. And as M&A consultants over the years can attest, the justification for mergers often dissipates as the reality drags on of what exactly everyone is getting themselves into...but at that stage, it is just about impossible to say "Kill it"...

Suffice to say, of the various M&As I have been involved in over the years, whilst quite a few may have been successful from a pure project management point of view (on time, on spec and on budget...with a little tolerance thrown in to be fair!)...but in terms of delivering shareholder value and living up to the justification, well, that has proven far more elusive to achieve, especially within the indicated timeframes.

I have pushed the PRINCE2 method of ongoing Business Case justification during a number of M&As...and have succeeded in making myself hugely unpopular with all the initial pro-merger stakeholders. PRINCE2 stresses common sense - something that made sense a few months ago may not make sense now and even less so in the future. But when common sense runs into vested interests that either don't have to stick around once the M&A is completed or can easily blame other factors when it goes awry (and make a substantial sum in the meantime), then common sense is about as welcome as a Chechen with a ticking suitcase in a Moscow church.

An M&A, once approved, is really like a freight train going at 60km/h with a few dozen fully laden carriages behind it. Whilst the speed is often a little disappointing, the momentum behind it makes it unstoppable. And a Business Case review is at best an annoying formality and at worst something to be ignored and destroyed. Either way, it becomes very ineffective.

Ongoing and truthful Business Case justification is something that needs to happen more often with M&As and it is my hope that independent M&A consultants continue to provide an objective view as to what the reality is. The truth may not be pretty, but it is nowhere near as ugly as the reality of what happens when the merger train runs off the tracks long after the project is over.