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Case Study - Planning for Headquarters Integration
A Class 1 railroad had submitted its STB filings indicating its plans for acquiring another Class 1 railroad. High-level cost savings estimates had been derived for the purposes of the filing, and now the wait for the STB decision ensued. But how would the railroad actually achieve the estimated savings? How would the practices and procedures of the two companies be merged? What set of issues would be considered in choosing to run a particular functional area using the "Railroad A Approach" or the "Railroad B Approach?"

Working with the newly appointed head of headquarters Integration Planning, Norbridge designed a planning process and template worksheets to help department managers think through the tasks lying before them. Templates compared department missions, organization structure, responsibilities and staffing levels, compensation schemes, key performance measurements, processes utilized, pertinent tools and technology, and budgets.

Norbridge consultants then facilitated parallel series of team meetings for a range of functional areas as information was gathered, and the various worksheets were completed. Functions at greatest risk of not achieving either a seamless integration or cost savings were given the highest degree of attention. Upon completion of the baseline comparison, a vision of how the unified department would operate was created. This in turn drove an assessment of training needs, process adaptations, IT changes and data translation requirements, and personnel management issues like goal setting and measurement.

Value Added
This structured process had a number of important benefits. At the most basic level, the process yielded a comprehensive set of detailed implementation tasks that then fed into an overall master plan. Another important benefit was that difficult-to-resolve or cross-functional issues were identified early on, when resources could still be obtained and deployed to solve them. These were elevated up the hierarchy of planning teams until they reached a level where they could be adequately addressed.

One of the most important but less obvious benefits of the approach was that it provided a vehicle for the meaningful involvement of a great many employees in the planning process. This helped morale during the transition. It also forced the acquiring company's functional leaders and staff to learn something of the methods in place at the acquiree. The respect and interest thus demonstrated encouraged employees at the acquiree to consider job offers favorably, and the acquirer was able to achieve extremely high acceptance rates among those to whom it offered positions. As a result of both the degree of documentation and the high acceptance rates, little of the institutional knowledge present at the acquiree was lost.

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