Desperately Seeking Synergy
Managers can separate the real opportunities for synergy from the mirages, say Michael Goold and Andrew Campbell of the Ashridge Strategic Management Centre, by taking a more disciplined approach to synergy, Corporate executives have strong biases in favour of synergy, and those biases can lead them into ill-advised attempts to force business units to cooperate - even when the ultimate benefits are unclear. These biases take four forms: 1) the synergy bias, which leads executives to overestimate the benefits and underestimate the costs of synergy; 2) the parenting bias, a belief that synergy will be captured only by cajoling or compelling business units to cooperate; 3) the skills bias 0 the assumption that whatever know-how is required to achieve synergy will be available within the organization; and 4) the upside bias, which causes executives to concentrate so hard on the potential benefits of synergy that they overlook the possible downside risks. In combination, these four biases make synergy seem more attractive and more easily achievable than it truly is. As a result, corporate executives often launch initiatives that ultimately waste time and money and sometimes even severely damage their businesses. To avoid such failures, executives need to subject all synergy opportunities to a clear-eyed analysis that clarifies the benefits to be gained, examines the potential for corporate involvement, and takes into account the possible downsides. Such a disciplined approach will inevitably mean that fewer initiatives will be launched. But those that are pursued will be far more likely to deliver.
Have you thought about attending a management programme on this topic? Try [Leading a Group of Businesses]
This article is available to download in full direct from Harvard Business Online [Desperately Seeking Synergy]
Goold, M. & Campbell, A. (1998) Desperately Seeking Synergy, Harvard Business Review, pp. 131-143, September-October