According to the Financial Times, the upcoming merger between the NYSE and German’s Bourse is expected to yield $400 million in merger, lower operating costs, cross selling, etc. Will they ever achieve their goal? More importantly, are they putting anything in place so that they can measure if they achieve their goals? Surprisingly, I’ve found that most projects, even projects costing hundreds of millions of dollars or more, rarely measure where they are today, set target goals for where they need to be, and they agree to a time when they will look at the results.
Years ago, when I worked in Investment Banking, I asked a top M&A banker if he knew of any reports that showed how corporate mergers performed against their goals when they agreed to a merger or acquisition. If there were lists of agreed actions and tracking of whether the actions were performed. I was told that I wouldn’t find much out there because deals rarely delivered on all synergies. Some firms didn’t bother to agree to a list of actions, some didn’t track their actions, some only tracked some actions (usually ONLY the ones that were successful), and some stopped tracking when the results were negative. Does this sound like any project that you’ve run? After getting funding during your budget period, or as a special project, you have to make promises and representations as to what the results you expect. However, a year or two later when the project is over does anyone go back and measure the results?
We all live in a complicated world, with all sorts of unexpected things poping up all the time. If we don’t set a baseline (however a project is performing today), then set a target (the goal you are is trying to achieve) and put a process in place that tells us if we moved from our baseline to our target, we really can’t tell what’s going on. For a truly rare project that delivers a very big change in a very short time, we might convince ourselves that we can measure success by gut instinct alone. … do we think we can track that project over the coming years to tell if it remains at the target performance level? Probably not. So (one more time!) baseline your current services at the start of a project, have a measurable target and track the results. And that’s a Niccolls worth for today.