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Charging the Storm

An unconventional approach for navigating post-merger integration

December 2023

by Darrell Brown

The great plains of the United States are hostile and unpredictable. The plains are subject to violent storms that bring rapid temperature shifts, lightning strikes, and hailstorms, further intensifying the complexities of living across this environment. Deer, birds, sheep, and others share this environment and navigate the everyday challenges of the great plains, often enduring reduced life spans due to the harsh conditions. 

However, standing firm across the great plains lies one great outlier who approaches habitation differently, often leading to a much longer life expectancy: the American bison.

Bison successfully navigate the great plains better than any counterpart. Their approach to navigating the violent storms of the region are different. While cattle and other mammals flee storms in fear as they sense them, bison unusually run into the storm. The logic for this bizarre act of running into danger actually relies on intuitive logic: while other animals run from the storm inevitably prolonging their time in the storm and further exhausting them, the bison run into the storm to reduce the storm’s duration and arrive first to the newly watered vegetation awaiting on the other side.


In this seemingly nonconformist act, bison fight survival instincts under intense pressure to make a more logical, individualistic decision that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. While bison may not possess the intellectual prowess of other animals, their remarkable physical adaptations and dietary resilience have enabled them to navigate these complex events and flourish across the great plains. 

In our research here at mXa, we have often likened periods of inorganic growth in large corporations to sudden and unpredictable storms that sweep across the great plains. A seemingly tranquil environment can swiftly transform into a whirlwind of disorder and stress – and, contrary to what organizations might want to believe, most individuals in these situations react just like any other mammal facing an impending storm. In the post-deal environment, time is of the essence and it becomes critical to make logical, financially calibrated decisions that will lead to the most optimal outcome for the company and its people. As organizations navigate these challenging scenarios, mXa has identified three valuable insights we can draw from the bison’s behavior in analogous environments to ensure client’s are best prepared for the impending storm.

1) Bison are generalists, rather than specialists

In contrast to their fellow inhabitants of the great plains, the American bison exhibits remarkable adaptability, continuously honing its skills over time to effectively navigate the challenges posed by storms. While not intellectually gifted like their counterparts, bison have developed a resilient livelihood through robust diets, individualistic strategies, and the ability to thrive in diverse environments, even when facing discomfort.

While we at mXa appreciate the contributions of specialized expertise, we also emphasize the importance of generalist perspectives in navigating the complexities of the post-deal environment. Excessive reliance on specialized viewpoints can oftentimes obscure decision-making and hinder comprehensive evaluations. Conversely, generalists offer a broader lens and more holistic understanding of the situation, which can be instrumental in making informed decisions amid uncertainty.

2) Bison are willing to consider contrarian decisions

American bison confront the challenging task of evaluating all options, even those that may cause immediate discomfort or alter their fundamental survival instincts. While other animals instinctively flee from danger, bison have learned to discern between such situations and confront the storm head-on when it is in their best interest.

We believe that post-deal environments are never exactly the same, and that contrarian approaches must be considered to ensure you have taken into account every opportunity for a better outcome. Our consultants are cross-trained across different domains, industries, and technologies to ensure every outcome is considered, no matter the status quo.

3) Bison are physically prepared to burden the storm

While other animals face each storm individually and often struggle to endure the dangers of violent weather, bison have evolved with remarkable physical adaptations that bolster their resilience. Unlike their counterparts, who rely on shelter, parental guidance, and dietary restrictions for survival, bison’s natural hardiness and ability to sustain themselves on past meals for prolonged periods enable them to weather storms with great resilience.

M&A events, akin to unpredictable storms, demand expertise and preparation to manage their inherent turbulence and discomfort. At mXa, we prioritize professional readiness for such events and continuously recruit new talent to address any potential weaknesses. Just as bison evolve, we emphasize the importance of professional growth and embody this principle within our firm.  

Navigating the tumultuous waters of an M&A event can be a nerve-wracking experience, leaving individuals filled with apprehension and uncertainty about their future. These mergers and acquisitions often bring periods of ambiguity and confusion, where the safest course of action may seem counterintuitive. As the storm clouds gather, temperatures fluctuate, and winds intensify, our senses are heightened by the first flashes of lightning and thunderous roads, triggering an instinctive urge to run and seek refuge – relying solely on instinct can be a perilous path. 

In taking a lesson from the American bison, we believe M&A events can reach their full potential when guided under the contrarian, customized approach led by those who navigated many storms themselves – by those who seek to be generalists, by those who consider every option, and by those who professionally evolve with each transaction.

Come learn more about mXa’s non-traditional approach to navigate post-merger integration here

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