The M&A Management Playbook and Toolkit

Your guide for everything from target evaluation to post merger integration

This toolkit is designed for Corporate Development and Integration Teams and can be easily customized to fit your organization’s needs.  Along with the tools and templates comes a step-by-step guide on how to implement the toolkit.

The M&A Management Playbook and Toolkit is now available as a FREE eBook download (click here to download).  It is our way of giving back to the M&A community.  The information contained in the eBook can also be found on this webpage and related blogs and links.  You may use the table of contents below to go to a specific topic of interest.  

The individual templates (Excel, Word, PPT), due diligence checklists, and integration workplans are also included with the eBook download. 

Table of Contents


Managing Mergers & Acquisitions can be daunting, but doing it effectively is critical to successful inorganic growth for an organization.

This M&A Checklist and Management Toolkit will guide your M&A activities from target evaluation through post-merger integration. The toolkit includes tips to improve your M&A process as well as a framework to build your own best practices. The 16 tools provided in this toolkit are applicable to new or experienced M&A teams offering customizable features to accommodate your company’s business process requirements.  

The toolkit focuses on three areas:

1) Managing the tracking and ranking of targets, and reporting statuses to your executive team;

2) Managing due diligence for targets chosen for a deeper dive; and

3) Managing integration planning and execution of closing / closed deals.

Proper management of these three areas helps to ensure that the right targets are chosen and that the value combining the companies is realized.


This section defines a few terms that are used in the accompanying documents. Some of the terms may be used a little differently by some companies or investment bankers / brokers, but efforts were made to ensure definitions are as consistent as possible. Note that many of the definitions around integration roles, teams, etc. are defined in the M&A Integration Methodology eBook (i.e. Executive Steering Committee, Integration Leader, etc.).

Day 1 Readiness Review

A detailed review of the Day 1 Workplan (action plan) by the Integration Leadership Team with the Executive Steering Committee (ESC) and Executive Sponsor (ES) (these roles and others are defined in the document “M&A Integration Methodology”). This review should happen 10 to 14 days before closing of the deal / Day 1, but there should be no big surprises. The ESC and ES should be aware of all critical / Level 2 decisions (see below) by this point. This is just the final review of all Day 1 actions for any final tweaking and discovery.

Day 1

The first day after closing of the deal. It is referred to as “Day 1”, because it is the 1st day that the two businesses are acting as one. “Day 1” is used to mark the execution of several actions such as communications to employees, etc.

Level 1 / Level 2 Decisions

Criteria for Level 1 and Level 2 integration decisions should be defined during the Integration Framework Definition (defined in the document “M&A Integration Methodology”), to outline which types of decisions can be made by the Integration Leadership Team (ILT) and Workstreams vs. the Executive Steering Committee (ESC) / Executive Sponsor (ES). Typically, only critical decisions like Organizational Structure, closing of facilities, etc. are escalated to the ESC / ES, but decision autonomy differs by organization, so must be clearly defined.

Phase I, II, III, IV and V Integration Workplans 

This refers to a phased approach for developing and executing Integration Workplans (action plans). This helps to organize and prioritize actions, as well as to coordinate some of the more complex actions cross-functionally. In this methodology, we define the phases as follows:

Phase I = Day 1

Phase II = Days 2-30

Phase III = Days 31-90

Phase IV = Days 91-180

Phase V = Days 180+


Sometimes called “functional team”, this refers to a “stream” of work related to the due diligence and integration planning efforts. The business leaders should decide on which workstreams are necessary for their business. Common workstreams are Finance, HR, IT, Legal, Marketing, Sales, Engineering and Product Development. “Subteams” of workstreams are used if a further breakdown makes sense. For example, under Finance, there may be A/P, A/R and Procurement subteams. A workstream leader should manage the overall efforts for all subteams reporting to that workstream.

Desktop Due Diligence

Also known as Preliminary Due Diligence or Pre-Diligence. The preliminary review of a company through evaluation of data and documents, internet research, etc., to determine whether the company is a good fit strategically, financially, culturally, etc. typically happens before the Letter of Intent (LOI) is signed, but after it is established that there is interest by both companies. The depth of research at this stage varies, based on many factors, such as company size, complexity of the business, whether there is a broker and a book prepared, etc., but requires a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to be signed, so that financial information can be shared. In most cases, the target company does not share specifics about customers, for example, but may be willing to share the total revenue for their top 10 customers (but not share the names of those customers). This phase assumes that there are other potential buyers still in the running.

Letter of Intent (LOI)

A Letter of Intent, sometimes called Letter of Interest or LOI, is an agreement between a purchaser and a seller used to outline the initial terms of a merger or acquisition transaction. It typically details the estimated purchase price or range, the target close date, structure of the deal, and other terms, and is signed after Desktop Diligence and before full Due Diligence. The LOI is also a commitment by the purchaser to move to full due diligence and an indication of intent to close, although terms are included in the LOI to allow either party to back out of the deal with specific restrictions and/or penalties. The acceptance of the LOI by the seller indicates that only that buyer is in being considered and other interested parties are no longer in the running, unless and until the LOI is void.

Financial Model

This is a model built, usually starting during Desktop Diligence and is a working document (updates / additions continuing through to final valuation and offer letter to selling business), that models how buying the company will affect your business financially. It typically includes how synergies and revenue uplift will affect the combined organization over time, as well as predictions on how current products will perform (considering that some may be sunset, combined into one product, etc.). The more that is learned during Due Diligence and the more that the two leadership teams can collaborate on ideas during that period, the more accurate this model becomes. Leadership of the acquiring company must typically commit to this model before a valuation of the target company can be completed and an offer made.

Valuation Model

Valuation is the process of determining the value or worth of a business. There are various valuation models such as Discounted Cash Flow, EBIDTA Multiple, etc. Typically, an organization’s finance team will use multiple methods to value a target business, based on all the findings from Due Diligence and from the financial model, to determine a range and then the final offer. Guidance on valuation is not included in this toolkit, as it is a very specialized area and should be handled by the finance experts in your organization or by a third party.

General Tips for a Successful M&A

Learn about general tips on running a successful M&A here: General Tips for a Successful M&A

M&A Acquisition Templates, Trackers and Checklists

Several Excel, Word and PowerPoint templates and trackers are included with the M&A Checklist and Management Toolkit.  They will assist you with organizing, tracking and implementing an M&A process for your company.  The list of documents includes the following:

  • Acquisition Tracker

  • Acquisition Ranking Tool

  • M&A Opportunity Funnel

  • M&A Workstream Charter

  • Integration Workplans by Function

  • Integration Playbook Template

  • Workstream Cross-Functional Dependency Log

  • Workstream Risks and Issues Log

  • Workstream Status Report

Click on the following link to learn more on how you can use these M&A templates, trackers and checklists.

M&A Process Map

This is a high-level process map that shows responsibilities of various functions at each stage in the M&A process. It is always a good idea to establish a process and tollgates for your company, and to get agreement from leadership on the process. This helps to ensure clear definition of roles and responsibilities, and also supports communication throughout the process. A more detailed level will also need to be defined and agreed upon for each step. (Click image to enlarge)

Preliminary Due Diligence

Describes the goals and process of Desktop Due Diligence. It is a general guideline that should be customized for your business and the specific target you are reviewing.

Learn more about Preliminary Due Diligence and view a list of request items here: Preliminary Due Diligence

Due Diligence Checklist

Due Diligence is arguably the most important step when it comes to a merger. Planning which specific documents and data to request from the target company can save a lot of time and money, ensuring that you gather all critical information to make an educated decision on whether or not to acquire the business.

Check out the due diligence request list here: M&A Due Diligence Checklist

Key Employee Retention Plan

Retaining important employees is a crucial step in making a merger or acquisition successful. By creating and plan of who to retain and how to do so in the initial stages of this process, will help ensure a successful lasting merger.

The leadership team should be proactive and build the retention plan very soon after the Letter of Intent (LOI) is signed.  The execution of the plan should begin immediately after the announcement of the deal. The matrix on the next page should be used to outline the key employees that you want to retain.  Below are field descriptions for the planning matrix.

  1.   Loss Impact – Determine and document how critical each key employee is to the merger / acquisition or to the business overall.
    • Critical – The employee is critical to the integration or the business going forward.  It would jeopardize the success of the business if this person left and it would be nearly impossible to replace him/her.
    • Important – This employee is very important to the integration or the business going forward.  It would be very hard to replace him/her and it would cause delays or potential quality issues if this person left.
  •   Retention Category
    • Transitional – Do you only need this person to be retained through the closing of the merger/acquisition and integration of the businesses? Or do you only need them for a specific amount of time after closing (6 months, 12 months, etc.)?
    • Long-term – Or do you need to retain this person long-term?
  •   Employee Motivators
    • Identify what motivates this employee. Why makes them tick?  What makes them want to work for a company.  This could be financial, but may also be “soft motivators”, such as: Security, Inclusion, Autonomy, Recognition, Loyalty, etc.
  •   Plan
    • Determine the plan / action to retain that employee.  Again, actions do not have to be monetary. It can be a call from the CEO saying that “you are critical to our combined organization”, a small change in role or title, more authority, etc.  The solution depends on the loss of impact level, the company motivators, etc.

M&A Integration Methodology

(Also included as an eBook using the download form below)

Summarizes a refined integration approach, based on leading practices within several different industries, as well as, a wide range of deal sizes. It outlines, in detail, how to implement this framework and methodology step-by-step. While the methodology is very disciplined and structured, it is also flexible enough to easily customize and scale for each specific deal.

See the complete M&A Integration Methodology here: M&A Integration Methodology

Communications Plan

A communications plan template for a mergers or acquisitions is available here: M&A Communications Plan

It guides you through what you need to consider, how to keep messaging consistent and what bases need to be covered, minimally.

ma managment playbook and toolkit


Consists of an 83 page PDF eBook along with all the associated checklists and templates. Submit your information below to receive an email with a download link.