Don’t Wait for the Findings, Align on the Yardstick…Upfront

It’s always a bit too much of a race – to pull together the issues, align on what matters most, and then deploy the activities to nail an effective electronic survey to supplement the interviews to measure the commercial diligence matters.

Survey results come in, analyses and draft conclusions are written up – usually all just prior to an assembly of not only the deal team, but also the investment committee to green light (or kill) the next bid event.

All too many times, though, minds are already set (believers are already believers and skeptics are already skeptics), and interpretations of the findings can be reset in the course of the discussions to justify pre-existing views. The momentum of the work creates too much risk that the data is interpreted and the implications bent to make a case that is already largely cemented in place.

The issue is a simple (and common) process error.

The fix is also simple to correct (and standardize).

All that needs to be done is to make every member of the deal team and an appropriate subset of the investment committee take the survey – in advance of deploying the survey with the following instruction:

  1. Answer the critical questions in the survey with the threshold answer that you need to see in order to believe that this is a smart investment to make
  2. Take the team results, sit down and discuss (and include the outside diligence provider in the discussion so they hear the arguments) and pre-align on what needs to be true to increase excitement for the deal. Set your yardsticks...upfront
  3. When the data comes in from the customer and/or channel survey(s), make sure that the presentation of the market results appears alongside the agreed to thresholds for each key question
  4. Drive an analysis and discussion around…
    1. Why results differed from thresholds; and
    2. Whether there is good reason to believe that any delta presents a value-generation opportunity rather than a strong argument to walk away

This best practice will drive a richer discussion once the research results come in and will ground the team in even greater objectivity – driving both analytical effectiveness and greater efficiency during the process stage that holds the greatest stress and (often) frustration.

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