Why Discovery Sucks

In my experience, most people would prefer to go fight a dragon than go to yet another fruitless Discovery session.Blue dragon protecting old books

Real-life Discovery sessions are generally so high-level that important details fall through cracks the size of the Grand Canyon. The already-overloaded stakeholders are often too busy multitasking to focus on contributing. To combat this issue, more and more meetings are scheduled in a desperate attempt to gather all of the requirements and make some semblance of a plan before the dreaded deadline.

In a perfect world, all the stakeholders are available and focused. Everyone agrees that the go-forward plan is fair and efficient. All of the requirements are well documented and next steps are crystal clear. At the end of the session, everyone rides their magical unicorns back to their desks at the end of a rainbow and toasts another successful integration with sparkling beverages that shoot fireworks when the glasses tink together.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

What can we do to get closer to the perfect Discovery Session? Three key things can set you up for success.

The early bird gets the worm, the early worm gets eaten.

Don’t wait until there is a public announcement to start Discovery. When it comes to timing, there is a delicate balance between starting too early and starting too late. Too early, and the chance of the M&A deal falling through is relatively high and people will get discouraged if a lot of work is done for no benefit. Start too late, and you’re setting yourself up for a Death March. Prior to kicking off detailed sessions with the larger team, use a dedicated group of subject matter experts to start the high-level Discovery sessions before the public announcement.

There is no such thing as multitasking.

While it may be painful to take key resources off of their day-to-day work to focus on Discovery sessions, the cost of not doing that is seen time and time again. Give your critical resources dedicated time in order to save time and pain later.

A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Many workshops document the output, but not the conversation around it. Without context, a lot of the message gets lost. The poor person working through the notes later may misconstrue an action item and unwittingly cause confusion. To avoid this, dedicate resources to capture the context and conversation in addition to decisions made.


This advice is easy to give but hard to implement without the right support. I have seen time and time again where these things get swept away in the chaos of an integration. Having someone on your team that brings prior experience of these lessons learned will be invaluable.



As the founder of Syncopated ConsultingAbby Dryer helps leaders develop a team culture that supports their employees through major times of disruption such as Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) or any directional or leadership change. Much like syncopated music stresses unaccented beats, the Syncopated Consulting approach targets potentially overlooked voices. This allows leadership to fully embrace the complexity within their teams and bring everyone together.  That harmony brings the balance between improving the bottom line and increasing employee morale and retention.  


For more information on what an offbeat approach might look like for your business integration, email Abby at abbyd@syncopated.biz.

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