IN THE HEADY, hectic world of corporate mergers and acquisitions, the typical scenario shows the top brass busy making monumental management decisions while the lower-rank employees wonder how all the big changes will affect them. It is at such a critical time that companies reveal how good they are at managing the human element. A company engaged in a merger or acquisition that thinks of more than just the bottom line is one that knows how to create long-term value for the organisation. Right Management Consultants knows all about advising clients on managing the human element, having concluded 57 acquisition deals of its own in the past 11 years. Revenue generation, synergy creation and cost-cutting are the main drivers behind mergers and acquisitions. Synergy and growth were the main reasons behind Right's numerous acquisitions. The result of all these acquisitions is the biggest consulting services firm in the world. But the company said it did not acquire just for the fun of it, and advised others to be equally cautious. 'Do not integrate just for the sake of doing so,' said Ted Davies, executive vice-president of the firm's Asia-Pacific operations. And when the time came to move into acquisitions, companies should ensure they had established sound leadership structures to ensure smooth transitions, he said. 'We have to identify the right leaders for our newly acquired units. Most of the companies we acquire are boutique firms. We aim for an aligned leadership so the firms blend into the global corporation.' Culture issues are also important. 'There is a profound difference between organisational and national culture. We are well aware of the differences. The acquired companies are usually localised and small in scale,' Mr Davies said. 'Both parties must understand each other in order to contribute to the merger or acquisition, which could take from a few months to a few years to implement completely, depending on the organisational culture of both parties.' He said both parties should work together to build up confidence and mutual trust, and both must seek to understand the other's values, beliefs and business approaches. Two-way communication was essential, he said. 'We do not communicate to the managing principals only. We try to sit down with the individual consultants, on a one-on-one basis, and give them a sense of Right from a global and regional perspective.' Right's relatively simple organisational structure makes the transition process easy. 'Consulting firms are not usually multilayered organisations. We do not work like a pyramid. Rather, we have a flat structure. 'What we do is facilitate, enable and direct people who already know how to do their jobs.' In any merger, staff turnover is inevitable, but Right strives to retain committed staff. 'As a career management firm, we encourage people to be in control of their destiny. But we want people who are committed and engaged to stay with us,' Mr Davies said. Right offers a knowledge bank and infrastructure as a retaining tactic. 'We have developed a global codification that captures all the intellectual capital,' Mr Davies said, adding that all the consultants could contribute to and access the showcases. 'The knowledge bank contains at least 200 intellectual properties. It is a powerful and compelling tool for consultants. Consultants need similar-calibre professionals as sounding boards to bounce off ideas, to create intellectual stimulation. 'Consultants around the globe can access the database any time of the day. You don't easily find this type of infrastructure in a small business.' As a world leader in organisational consulting, Right's acquisition procedures were in the spotlight, Mr Davies said. 'I think the entire exercise is very stimulating. We are not under pressure at all. We need to practice what we have been preaching. The good news is that we are putting strong and effective teams together,' he said. 'We are a human organisation in that we still make mistakes, but so far it has been very encouraging.' Seven Pillars of Wisdom Select and develop aligned leadership for the new organisation. Avoid the 'arrogant acquirer' syndrome as it can jeopardise value. Do not buy the 'hard' and 'soft' issue myth. Do not endanger growth while cutting costs. Help the sales force stay focused on business. Take organisational culture seriously. Engage middle managers to succeed with integration.